The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is planning to add more 3D X-ray technology for carry-on bag screenings, the agency chief told Congress last week.
When the program was announced in July, the TSA estimated it would deploy the new technology in 145 airports by 2019.
But, the new devices are such a “huge improvement,” the agency is raising its projection and will order 200 scanners in the next year, David Pekoske, the agency’s administrator, told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
While the current 2D scanners only provide a few images from certain angles, the new machines use computed tomography (CT) to take hundreds of images per second with a spinning X-ray camera, building an interactive image that can be rotated and analyzed from 360 degrees by screening staff.
“I’ve watched them in operation,” Pekoske said. “They are a significant enhancement in security effectiveness. And I’ve also watched passengers actually self-align behind the CT machines because it’s a better passenger experience. Passengers are not required to take as many things out of their carry-on bags.”
By providing clearer images, agents can assess bags more efficiently. The agency said, “Passengers may also be able to leave laptops and liquids in their carry-on bags.” The quicker pace, coupled with requiring travelers to take out less from their bags, would ease the congestion plaguing long security lines.
The pilot program started in 2017 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Boston's Logan International Airport, followed by John F. Kennedy International Airport. It was then rolled out to more than a dozen airports.
While the TSA now plans to buy 200 units, that will still only cover less than 10 percent of the country’s 2,200 screen lanes.