The nation’s aviation security agency is beginning a test at 15 U.S. airports of new three-dimensional X-ray scanners that may someday allow passengers to bring liquids into their bags.
The Transportation Security Administration plans to add as many as 40 units — the same as CT scanners used in the medical world — at additional airports by the end of the year, TSA said in a press release Monday. It plans to have more than 145 in airports by October 2019, along with 16 at federal test facilities.
Instead of the existing X-ray machines that snap images from two angles, the new scanners have a spinning X-ray that takes hundreds of images in seconds. That gives security agents a 3-D image of a bag’s contents with far higher fidelity, making it easier to spot weapons or explosives.
“Use of CT technology substantially improves TSA’s threat detection capability at the checkpoint,” agency Administrator David Pekoske said in the release.
While images of carry-on bags will continue to be evaluated by TSA screeners, companies are trying to develop computerized systems that automatically detect suspicious items to lower the risk of human error. If that proves accurate, it could eventually allow people to begin taking liquids into the airport because the machines will be able to tell the difference between explosives and harmless liquids.