TSA may use 3-D X-ray technology for carry-on bags
The Transportation Security Administration may screen carry-on bags with new three-dimensional X-ray machines that are better at spotting liquid explosives, guns and other weapons, USA Today reports.
The 3-D machines have “an extraordinary ability to find” liquids, TSA chief Kip Hawley told the newspaper. “They’re a step beyond where we are today.”
The TSA has limited the volume of liquids passengers can carry on planes since authorities foiled a plot in London in August to bomb U.S.-bound planes with liquid explosives.
The question for the TSA is whether to buy upgraded X-ray machines for $75,000 to $200,000 each or to wait possibly two years for better machines costing about $400,000. The TSA had planned to wait for the more expensive machines, which have the highest level of explosives detection. But, Hawley said, “if it’s going to be two years, maybe it makes sense economically and security-wise to put an intermediate step in between.”
The TSA will evaluate the machines in coming months, the newspaper reports. They provide more detailed images than the X-rays airports have used for 30 years. Those X-rays have been criticized by the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general for inadequately spotting explosives, guns and knives. Upgraded X-rays “might significantly increase screeners’ ability to detect” weapons, a 2004 report by the inspector general said.
The upgraded machines, called multi-view X-ray, scan from several angles to create three-dimensional images of items in a bag. Current X-ray machines use one image that can make a knife look like a pen.
“We may actually be able to speed security lines” by giving airport screeners more detailed images that reduce the number of bags they must hand-search for weapons, said Peter Kant of Rapiscan Systems, a manufacturer of airport X-ray machines.
Multi-view X-rays are used in European airports to scan checked luggage and at courthouses, embassies and other buildings.
“The technology is ready now,” said Thomas Ripp, president of L-3 Security and Detection Systems, which has developed a machine being considered by the TSA.