The Smiths Detection CT checkpoint scanner. (TSA)

TSA Expands CT Scanner Rollout at Checkpoints

Computed tomography (CT) technology from Smiths Detection that provides 3-D imaging is now in use at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints at Philadelphia International Airport, Richmond International Airport and Norfolk International Airport, following last week’s installation announcement regarding Miami International Airport. Philadelphia has installed five units – two units at the A/E Terminal checkpoint, two at the D/E Terminal checkpoint and one at Terminal B.

The technology is similar to CT technology used in the medical field and TSA says research shows that it is the most consequential technology available today for airport checkpoints.

The system applies sophisticated algorithms for the detection of explosives by creating a 3-D image that can be viewed and rotated on three axes for thorough visual image analysis by a TSA officer. If a bag requires further screening, TSA officers will inspect it to ensure that a threat item is not contained inside. 

The 3-D imagery enables TSA officers to manipulate the image on screen to get a better view of a bag’s contents and often enables the officers to clear items without having to open a carry-on bag. Additionally, the technology provides an improved security threat detection capability at the checkpoint, while reducing the need for pulling aside a bag to be opened, thus reducing a touchpoint during the pandemic.

This equipment is similar to that used to scan checked baggage for explosive devices, and has been “sized” to fit at checkpoints to create such a clear image of a bag’s contents that the system can automatically detect explosives, including liquids, by shooting hundreds of images with an X-ray camera spinning around the conveyor belt to provide TSA officers with the three-dimensional views of the contents of a carry-on bag.

TSA says checkpoint CT technology should result in fewer bag checks. For example, passengers using the machines will be permitted to leave laptops and other electronic devices in their carry-on bags.

To date, CT checkpoint technology is now installed at the following TSA checkpoints:

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
  • Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI)
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)
  • Houston Hobby Airport (HOU)
  • Indianapolis International Airport (IND)
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  • Logan International Airport (BOS)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Miami International Airport (MIA)
  • Oakland International Airport (OAK)
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)
  • St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL)
  • Tampa International Airport (TPA)
  • Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD)
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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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