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Baggage Scanning Technology Evolving
The latest in baggage scanning technology looks kind of like the CT scanner hospitals use to to look inside the human body much like a loaf of bread, one slice at a time. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials hope this new tool will do a better, faster job detecting explosives in baggage.
The Explosives Detection Systems (EDS) machine runs with CT scan technology, modified to detect explosives in baggage and taking the place of TSA agents manually swabbing each bag. Fully-automated, the machine can scan at the rate of 240 bags an hour. TSA has installed 455 of the machines in airports since January.
Rather than multiple 2D images in traditional x-ray scanners, this new generation CT-like scanner displays dynamic images using a baggage scanning technology called Array Motion Imaging (AMI). AMI presents a moving image of baggage to the machine operator, as though someone were turning it around from side to side or up and down, enabling them to see all areas of the bag.
In the past, careful packing might have allowed prohibited items in baggage to pass by TSA machine operators not "seeing" them. This scanning technology lowers the odds of that happening substantially with new, multiple views as baggage passes though the system.
"It can be deployed anywhere," said Jeffrey Allison, TSA acting federal security director told thenewsstar.com. "It is portable and can be moved from one location to another. It is a great service for the passengers and it reduces the number of false-type alarms."
Built by Reveal Imaging, the $340,000 EDS machines are being paid for with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestmant Act of 2009, a $30 million fund earmarked to improve airport security across the nation in all areas.
TSA began using advanced imaging in 2007. An evolving program, imaging can detect a wide range of threats to security in a matter of seconds to protect the flying public. Imaging is an integral part of TSA's effort to continually look for new technologies that help ensure travel remain safe and a step ahead of evolving threats.
The TSA imaging program encompasses more than just baggage, it also includes the "scanning" of people as well. Too big to fit through a machine, human beings are handled differently, using a a variety of non-invasive methods that are preferred over unpopular pat-downs.
Since imaging technology has been deployed at airports, over 99 percent of passengers choose to be screened by this technology over alternative screening procedures. According to a CBS poll, 4 out of 5 Americans support the use of advanced imaging at airports nationwide.
Additionally, passengers with joint replacements or other medical devices that would regularly alarm a metal detector often prefer this technology because it is quicker and less invasive than a pat down.
"We are always looking for new technology and procedures that will both enhance security while strengthening privacy protections," TSA Administrator John Pistole said.
Reveal Imaging photo