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The TSA is testing out new scanners that could make airport security lines much faster

Mark Matousek
Airport security laptops

Joe Penney/Reuters

  • TSA is beginning to test new scanning machines that could speed up security lines.
  • The new scanners are similar to those used in hospitals, and they would give agents 3-D images of bags that would make it easier to distinguish dangerous items from harmless ones.
  • Test in European airports have indicated that security lines may be able to move at double their current speed if the new scanners are introduced

Going through airport security is often an unpleasant experience, and some of that has to do with the scanners used in American airports.

Since the scanners use x-ray technology, they can only take two-dimensional images of the bags that pass through them. This is why you have to separate your laptop from the rest of your carry-on bags: The 2-D images makes it difficult to distinguish explosives from harmless electronic devices when they're close to each other. 

But some airports in the United States are beginning to test scanners with computed tomography technology, according to Wired. These CT scanners are often used in hospitals, and they give the viewer 3-D images that make it much easier to distinguish and isolate the items in your bags. TSA agents would be able to rotate, zoom in or out, or change the colors or contrast on an object, which means you may not have to disassemble your bags again.

Tests in European airports have indicated that security lines may be able to move at double their current speed if the new scanners are introduced, but the biggest hurdle to widespread implementation is their price. One model, made by Analogic, costs $300,000, which is double the price of a standard x-ray scanner. American Airlines is planning to test the machines at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport before expanding the trials next year.

While we might have to wait a few years for speedy airport security, there's hope on the horizon.

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