Airports across the U.S. will soon start looking more like grocery-store checkouts.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will begin trialing a self-service screening option next month, first at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, one of three new technologies it is testing to speed up the security process at U.S. airports. The option, which was developed in partnership with the DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate, could then expand nationwide.
The Las Vegas trial will feature technology from Georgia-based logistics company Vanderlande Industries.
The technology sends PreCheck passengers down one checkpoint lane with four integrated stations, each one containing a video monitor with instructions and a help button that connects to a TSA officer if more assistance is needed.
Passengers will have to pass the requirements of each station before moving on to the next. According to Vaderlande, if “a passenger doesn’t pass initial screening due to an item left in their pocket or similar issue, the entry door reopens so passengers can remove items before being re-screened in the passenger portal.”
The automatic exit door opens only after travelers successfully pass all the requirements, allowing them to gather their personal belongings and head to the departure gates.
The Vanderlande prototype has already been installed at the TSA Transportation Systems Integration Facility (TSIF) at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C., and evaluated. TSA Administrator David Pekoske, who visited the prototype, said the idea behind installing it in Las Vegas was to give another benefit to PreCheck users.
“Since the system is designed for use in PreCheck lanes, highlighting the benefits to PreCheck travelers should be a priority. We want them to understand the value we’re trying to bring to them for taking the time to be pre-cleared for travel,” he said.
Other technology coming
Outside of Vanderlande, two other companies were awarded contracts by the Science and Technology Directorate.
One is Micro-X of Federal Way, a Washington state-based company that developed a pod-based design for individual passenger screening. Micro-X’s prototype pod includes “a compact carry-on screening system and a flat panel passenger screening capability.” The system will tell passengers if something alerts them and will direct them if more screening is needed.
Micro-X expects to test that technology sometime in 2025 and will showcase it at CES in Las Vegas early next year.
The other is Voxel Radar, a San Francisco-based company, that developed technology that can line walls or curved surfaces, screening passengers in real-time while they remove their belongings or, possibly, as they walk through a checkpoint.
The TSA’s ultimate goal
The three options, and the investment that the TSA and DHS are making, are ultimately aimed at speeding up the security process at U.S. airports, while also allowing TSA officers to direct their attention elsewhere.
“We are very excited to see how far these capabilities have come in a relatively short amount of time,” said Christina Peach, Branch Manager for the TSA ITF. “The airport security experience that we’ve all come to know could soon look and feel a lot different—in a very good way—for both passengers and TSOs.”
The technology could also reduce the need for TSA officers—the TSA is just one organization within the larger travel ecosystem that has warned of staffing shortages since travel’s post-pandemic return.
Other international airports have made moves to make the security process less painful, including London City, which became the first major U.K. airport to drop the liquid carry-on rule earlier this year (more U.K. airports have, or are expected to, follow suit). The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) also teased the same change last year and this year it announced a new Verified Traveller Program, similar to TSA PreCheck.