As the summer travel season reaches fever pitch, lines at security checkpoints around the country are becoming untenable for passengers and airports.
The embattled US Transportation Safety Administration has been criticised for the chronic understaffing and mismanagement of airport security checkpoints.
With passengers missing flights because of long wait times, airports and airlines have taken action on their own by hiring private security staff.
Earlier this month, Delta Air Lines even built their own security checkpoints at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The reality is that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Analogic, a Massachusetts-based engineering firm, has developed CT imaging technology that it claims will dramatically improve the security checkpoint experience.
(CT or Computed Tomography is a 3D imaging technology that’s widely deployed in the medical field.)
Analogic’s Cobra CT scanners are currently in use at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and London’s Luton Airport. The airports report that Cobra CT baggage scanners have been able to double the number of bags scanned while cutting wait times at check points in half, the company told Business Insider.
The advantage of CT technology is that bags are able to run through the system continuously without the need to remove liquids and laptops. The system is able to generate real-time 3D images of what’s inside a bag and is trained to automatically detect any threats. Further, Cobra CT technology has a 100% detection rate for known threats and will flag anything it doesn’t recognise, Analogic CEO Jim Green told Business Insider in an interview in May.
Automatic detection also cuts down on the number of TSA employees required to man each security line, which helps alleviate the agency’s staffing issues.
So why don’t we have it?
The truth is, we did have it, but chose not to use it.
“After 9-11, the TSA approached us to immediately build 500 scanners capable of seeing inside baggage at checkpoints,” Green said.
Although Analogic’s CT technology is in use at airports to scan checked luggage, the TSA decided to go with traditional X-ray systems for security checkpoints.
Green believes the TSA’s reluctance to adopt the technology is due to the fact that Analogic would be the only supplier.
“They like multiple sources for the same type of technology,”Green said. “Their single or dual view X-ray systems come from multiple vendors.”
Further, unlike the US, security checkpoints in Europe are the responsibility of the local airport authority instead of a federal agency.
“A survey of North American airports show that happy passengers spend 45% more than the average traveller,” OAG senior analyst John Grant told Business Insider in an interview in May. “An extra 10 minutes in a security line cuts spending by 30%.”
“In Europe, there’s a shared understanding of a balance between security and the need for a good security experience,” Grant added.
As a result, European airports have been willing to experiment with the technology because the decision makers have more of a vested interest in the commercial aspect of the operation.
In addition, Green indicated his company’s Cobra CT technology is about 30% more expensive than high-end X-ray systems.
On top of that, the Cobra system is heavier than the rival X-ray units, which limit the locations where security checkpoints can be placed.
According the Analogic CEO, his company will debut a new system later this year that will be more affordable, lighter, and more reliable while still using the core of its Cobra CT technology.
“Hopefully airports in the US will not only get more staff, but also more efficient security tech,” Green said. “We want the TSA to know that we have some technology to offer.”