Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Could a new scanner end the headache with liquids at airport security?
By David Millward
United Kingdom – The Telegraph
The ritual of passengers removing liquids and computers from their carry-on luggage could be coming to an end, thanks to the development of a new generation of scanners.
Trials have begun at a US airport using a portable version of a CT - computed tomography - scanner.
CT scanners have been used to screen hold baggage for some time. But they have been considered too big and too noisy to be deployed at passenger security.
This is changing with the portable version of the devices.
They are capable of examining luggage in considerable detail, even allowing screeners to rotate the image, making it possible to inspect bags from every conceivable angle.
The tests are being carried out jointly by American Airlines and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Should the tests be successful they will be extended to other airports in the US.
They are among a raft of trials aimed at making the process of getting through airports easier.
“New screening technologies are in the process of trial and certification in many locations around the world,” said a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the main industry trade body.
“The process has been painfully slow, hampered by the many individual state and regional standards that have to be met.
“Nevertheless, we are hopeful that equipment that will enable people to keep electronics inside bags will be certified by the end of this year in some states, with further testing and development to allow liquids to remain in bags to follow sometime in 2018.”
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Trials have also been going on in the UK where the Department for Transport says the situation is under constant review.
A complete ban on carrying liquids onto an aircraft was introduced in August 2006 after a terrorist plotted to take down a transatlantic flight by mixing the liquid components of a bomb on board.
It was eased following extensive research which concluded that liquids in quantities below 100 ml posed no threat to an aircraft.
In Britain, Luton Airport is testing a CT scanner produced by Analogic Cobra, which allows passengers to take carry-on luggage without removing liquids.
Elsewhere other technologies are also being trialled, including a device which scans bottles for liquid explosives.
One company, Cobalt Light Systems, of Abingdon, has machines being evaluated in hundreds of airports across Europe, including dozens in Britain.
Known as the Insight 200, the device can spot explosives in less than 10 seconds. Should the device detect “threat material” it triggers an alarm.
It is aimed at “LAGS” - liquids, aerosols and gels - and has been approved by the European Civil Aviation Conference, an intergovernmental body responsible for airline and airport security.
Tests have shown both a high level of accuracy and a negligible number of false alarms.
The EU has been keen to lift the restrictions for some time, but its deadline for doing so has been put back several times.
At one point it looked as if the 100ml limit could be eased. Now allowing small amounts of liquids to be left in cabin luggage, rather than placed in a clear plastic bag and scanned separately, appears a more likely option.
Airlines have made clear that there would have to be a consistent approach across all airports before the rules are eased, warning that different policies would create chaos.
Meanwhile talks are continuing between the EU and the US over proposals to extend the cabin laptop ban.
Currently enforced on flights from 10 African and Middle Eastern airports, the US wants to extend it to the EU, but the move has been opposed by both Brussels and airlines.