Automated Security Lanes—Good News at U.S. Airports
One recent and very positive development at US airports has been the work of airlines, airports and US TSA to deploy “automated screening lanes” at a select number of large U.S. airports. For those who have not been through one of these new lanes, US TSA has a good overview video.
Deployment of the lanes began in 2016, just when frustration with long passenger lines was peaking. To date, they have been deployed in a limited number of security checkpoints in Chicago, Newark and Atlanta. The response of the public and airlines (who are helping to fund the systems) has been positive, and as a result, TSA is planning to deploy more such lanes in 2017.
Figure 1: An automated checkpoint lane in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Thom Patterson
How do these automated lanes actually help reduce passenger lines? The key is how they move passenger bins more quickly – “automatically” - through the checkpoint. In traditional lanes, the entire line moves only as fast as the slowest passenger in it – e.g. the dreaded family of four with two baby strollers.
In an automated lane, passengers first put their items in bins at their own speed. Then they put the bins in the automated conveyor system. Empty bins are automatically returned to the beginning of the line. As a result, people with fewer items or people who are just faster are not delayed by people who need more time, and total passenger throughput increases.
“… the real bottleneck at airports are out-of-date 2D X-Ray scanners …”
It’s a positive step, long overdue in U.S. airports as even more sophisticated versions of automated lanes have been deployed in Europe and the Middle East for nearly a decade.
Automated Checkpoint Lanes – Only Part of the Solution
However, as these international airports have found, streamlining the flow of bins solves only part of the problem at checkpoints. While automated lanes help, there is much more we can do to dramatically improve passenger throughput. The key is to replace legacy 2D X-Ray scanners with more cost-effective systems that use 3D Computed Tomography (CT), such as Analogic’s ConneCT Checkpoint System.