Self-Service Screening Takes Flight at Harry Reid International Airport

By Danielle Dolin

by Danielle Dolin

The future of airport security is evolving with the launch of a groundbreaking self-service screening system, slated to debut in January at Harry Reid International Airport. Developed under the Science and Technology Directorate’s Screening at Speed Program, the pilot program marks a significant stride toward efficiency amid a surge in air travel.

As the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) responds to escalating air travel numbers surpassing pre-pandemic levels, it seeks sustainable changes to enhance screening efficiency and elevate the passenger experience. One notable initiative from the Screening at Speed Program is the introduction of passenger self-service screening, designed to empower PreCheck® passengers to navigate security protocols with minimal assistance from Transportation Security Officers (TSOs).

Dr. John Fortune, the Screening at Speed Program Manager, draws parallels to self-ordering kiosks in the restaurant industry, envisioning a seamless process for Trusted Traveler Program participants. “The positive feedback received during testing from mock passengers and TSOs is encouraging,” notes Dr. Fortune, emphasizing the potential for reduced pat-downs and bag inspections, allowing TSOs to focus on critical screening tasks.

In a collaborative effort, S&T’s Screening at Speed team and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Innovation Task Force (ITF) are spearheading transformative research and development to shape the future of airport screening. Dr. Fortune underscores the safety benefits, emphasizing the reduction of person-to-person contact and the streamlined pace for passengers, aligning with TSA’s stringent security standards.

The program’s inception in 2021 saw a Broad Agency Announcement in partnership with TSA, leading to the awarding of contracts to Micro-X, Vanderlande Industries Inc., and Voxel Radar. These companies are actively contributing to the development of self-screening concepts, prototypes, and hardware, ushering in a new era of airport security.

Micro-X is pioneering a pod-based design for individual screening consoles, equipped with a compact carry-on screening system and flat panel passenger screening. Feedback mechanisms notify passengers of additional screening needs, while a separate effort focuses on a small Computed Tomography (CT) X-ray system for a compact self-screening solution.

Voxel Radar’s innovative in-motion panel sensors aim to provide real-time screening as passengers move through checkpoints, envisioning a future where screening seamlessly integrates with the flow of passengers.

Vanderlande’s prototype, the PAX MX2, introduces an Automated Screening Lane carry-on bag conveyance system, featuring integrated stations for a comprehensive checkpoint experience. The system includes video monitors with step-by-step instructions, ensuring a smooth process for passengers. The prototype’s screening portal, equipped with automated entry and exit doors, enhances efficiency and addresses issues during initial screening.

The TSA Transportation Systems Integration Facility (TSIF) at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport became the testing ground for the Vanderlande prototype in March 2023, with Administrator David Pekoske emphasizing the priority to highlight benefits for PreCheck® travelers. As the program progresses, concerns linger about the potential trade-offs between convenience and security.

As 2023 draws to a close, the self-service screening landscape continues to evolve. Micro-X is set to begin a demonstration of its small-size CT X-ray system, contributing to ongoing algorithm development. Concurrently, video analytics companies Lauretta AI, LLC, and Deep North are receiving support through the S&T Silicon Valley Innovation Program to ensure passengers adhere to screening steps.

Looking ahead to January 2024, PreCheck® travelers will experience the Vanderlande self-service screening prototype at Harry Reid International Airport, marking a pivotal moment in the program’s implementation. S&T and TSA will offer a virtual reality walkthrough of the Micro-X self-screening system at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, providing the public a glimpse into the future of airport security.

Dr. Fortune expresses anticipation for the forthcoming self-service screening pod, scheduled for testing in 2025. The objective is to integrate multiple pods into a full screening lane, accommodating multiple travelers simultaneously. “We’re privileged to partner with TSA to reimagine airport security,” says Dr. Fortune, acknowledging the potential for novel solutions in shaping the airport of the future. The team eagerly awaits feedback on the first self-service prototype as it debuts in Las Vegas, sparking questions about the compatibility of innovation with the fundamental goal of ensuring air travel safety.

As the Science and Technology Directorate’s Screening at Speed Program introduces self-service screening to airport checkpoints, questions arise regarding the implications for our country’s safety. While the program aims to enhance efficiency and passenger experience amid the surge in air travel, concerns linger about the potential drawbacks and vulnerabilities associated with reduced human interaction in the screening process. The transition to self-service screening raises crucial inquiries about its impact on security effectiveness and the overall safety of travelers and Transportation Security Officers TSOs. As the pilot program unfolds in January at Harry Reid International Airport, the nation watches closely, contemplating whether this innovative approach truly aligns with our commitment to safeguarding air travel.

Danielle Dolin is a prolific writer and serves as the Managing Editor at the Christian News Journal. A dedicated mother of four daughters, she calls Southern Arizona home. Danielle’s passion for journalism extends beyond her professional role; she imparts her knowledge to homeschool students as a dedicated teacher. In her cherished moments of respite, you can find her engrossed in the pages of books or engaged in the world of video games. Her multifaceted life is a testament to her commitment to family, education, and her unwavering love for storytelling.

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