The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in partnership with Las Vegas McCarran International Airport has announced the official reopening of the Innovation Checkpoint, which features the latest upgrades in aviation security technologies to improve security and the passenger screening experience. The reopening coincides with the return of the convention industry to Las Vegas.
TSA developed the Innovation Checkpoint in 2019 to evaluate emerging security technologies in a side-by-side, live checkpoint environment. Managed by TSA’s Innovation Task Force, the data collected from Innovation Checkpoint operations are used to develop requirements for future investment in technologies that enhance TSA’s security effectiveness, streamline checkpoint operations and ultimately improve the passenger screening experience at airports nationwide.
“TSA and McCarran International Airport cooperatively understand the long-term value of testing the latest technologies from a variety of vendors in a single location. This partnership will have a lasting impact on aviation security as we strive to leverage private sector innovation to stay ahead of emerging security threats, ultimately benefiting the traveling public,” said TSA Assistant Administrator for Requirements and Capabilities Analysis Austin Gould. “We are grateful for the opportunity the airport has given TSA in this one-of-a-kind location to advance our security mission.”
“McCarran International Airport has been one of the busiest airports in the country amid the national leisure travel resurgence, and now we are beyond pleased to welcome back to Las Vegas the next piece of the recovery puzzle, conventions and business travelers,” said Rosemary Vassiliadis, Clark County Director of Aviation. “The reopening of the nation’s only Innovation Checkpoint will allow us to better serve those returning to this world-class destination. We are excited to continue this pioneering collaboration with the TSA to build not just a more efficient and secure travel experience, but a safer and healthier one as well.”
The technologies currently being evaluated in the four-lane Innovation Checkpoint extend to all aspects of the traveler security screening experience.
This is the only checkpoint in the country where TSA has installed four Automated Screening Lanes (ASLs) integrated with four Computed Tomography (CT) scanners, allowing for uninterrupted movement of carry-on luggage through the screening process. System configurations allow TSA officers to simultaneously review multiple 3-D, X-ray images produced by the CT unit through an RFID tracking system. Another configuration being tested features a sensor that is designed to prevent the backup of bins entering the ASL. For special screening circumstances, TSA officers can opt to use an ASL bin with a unique RFID code. The CT unit is designed to recognize the unique code and automatically diverts the bag for follow-up screening.
TSA is also testing an integrated UV-C light sanitization system, which is designed to disinfect the interior and exterior of bins as they are repopulated through the ASL’s automated bin return system. Bins pass through an enclosed, metal box where they are exposed to a high-dose of UV-C light that has been proven to inactivate bacteria and viruses including the COVID-19 virus. TSA worked closely with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate and determined that the systems are safe for operational use in the checkpoint environment.
Dynamic digital signage totems that display eye-catching and relevant information on screening procedures greet travelers at the entrance to the Innovation Checkpoint. There is no limit to the number of messages that can be displayed and messaging can be updated in real-time via a tablet on-site to reflect current operational conditions in the security checkpoint.
Travelers will see Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) units that are used to scan a traveler’s photo identification, verify the authenticity of the credential and confirm flight status by comparing it against the Secure Flight database through an electronic connection. To reduce potential touchpoints between travelers and TSA officers, the units are oriented so travelers are able to insert their own photo identification. With CAT, travelers no longer need to present their boarding pass to the TSA officer.
The Innovation Checkpoint also features the next generation body scanner. Referred to as enhanced Advanced Imaging Technology (eAIT), the scanner features an open design that screens travelers with their arms at their side instead of having to lift them over their head. Prior to the scan, the TSA officer receives an on-screen prompt if the traveler is improperly positioned. This allows the TSA officer to provide corrective feedback to the traveler prior to the screening. The eAIT, which has updated algorithms to increase detection accuracy during passenger screening, uses millimeter wave technology and does not produce an X-ray image.
TSA screened the first passengers through the Innovation Checkpoint in late summer 2019. The checkpoint was closed during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, but has reopened with upgraded technologies to coincide with the significant growth in commercial air travel.
During the pandemic, TSA’s Innovation Task Force used the downturn in travel nationwide to continue exploring new security technologies, configurations and applications. With the inaugural deployment in the Innovation Checkpoint, TSA continues its pursuit of increasing security effectiveness, enhancing the passenger experience and improving the TSA officer workplace.