American Airlines has assisted the TSA in this modernization initiative through its donation of 8 CT devices. In addition to the one being deployed at JFK, two of the donated devices are currently deployed at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), and at Boston Logan International Airport (BOS).
CT Technology versus Current X-Ray Technology at Passenger Screening Checkpoints
Current X-Ray scanning technology at passenger screening checkpoints creates two-dimensional images of the top and sides of scanned carry-on bags. However, CT scanning equipment creates a 3D image of scanned carry-on devices by rotating a narrow band of x-ray around the scanned bags which creates many small x-ray images at many different angles that are then digitally compiled into one three-dimensional representation. The result is an incredibly detailed image which gives TSA operators an enhanced ability to identify densities of objects within scanned bags and their exact location within 3D space. The technology also enables the TSA to rotate the image for more thorough analysis, reducing the need for manual inspection. As a result, the TSA is optimistic that passengers going through passenger screening checkpoints will no longer need to remove as many items from their carry-on bags, including liquids.
Current baggage scanning systems are often unable to clearly differentiate items that are placed directly on top or immediately next to each other. CT technology aims to solve this issue by providing operators volumetric information, that is information pertaining to an object’s location in space, density, and material composition. American Airlines believes the technology will reduce the number of passengers that need to be rebooked from passenger screening checkpoint delays.
CT technology is not new to aviation security and has been in use for checked bags since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. At the time, the technology was not compact or capable enough to meet TSA screening needs at passenger screening checkpoints. The technology has also been in use for decades in the Health Care Industry, where it has been used by doctors and physicians to make diagnoses without having to perform a biopsy or invasive surgery.
TSA installation of CT Technology
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According to the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, the increased funding should enable the TSA to deploy approximately 240 CT systems in 2019. The Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee in their report instead recommends $71.5M for checkpoint support, which includes funding for the purchase and installation of 145 CT machines at passenger checkpoints at high-risk airports across the United States.