TSA Unveils Pilot of New X-Rays at Checkpoints

The Transportation Security Administration announced plans to begin testing advance technology (AT) X-ray machines, including multi-view and high definition X-rays, at security checkpoints in the coming weeks. The new tools are designed to provide greatly enhanced explosive detection capabilities for carry-on baggage. The announcement was made in conjunction with contract awards to L3 Communications, Smiths Detection, and Rapiscan Systems. The contracts call for each vendor to lease seven of their AT X-ray machines to TSA for testing in airports. The total cost of the initial contracts is $1.4 million with options to purchase additional units in the future.

Advantages of AT X-ray include greatly enhanced displays that are much clearer and more detailed than current generation X-ray; the ability to upgrade the system as enhanced algorithms and programs emerge; and stable, low maintenance platforms and a smaller profile than currently available explosive detection systems. "The additional capability of AT scanners gives immediate benefit to our security officers in making security evaluations of carry-on bags," said Kip Hawley, TSA administrator. "It will help both effectiveness and efficiency."

While this type of technology is used worldwide for checked baggage, this initiative marks the first time multi-view and high definition X-ray systems will be deployed to security checkpoints specifically to screen carry-on bags. "These new X-ray technologies are built on systems not unlike computers millions of people use every day. They are totally upgradeable and programmable," said Mike Golden, TSA chief technology officer. "Comparing AT X-ray to current technology is like comparing a VHS tape to a DVD. Both play movies, but one is much clearer than the other." Once a test and evaluation schedule is finalized, the units will be appraised over several weeks in airports until one or more vendors are chosen for a wider deployment.

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