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Las Vegas’ McCarran airport quietly tests new 3-D security scanner

McCarran International Airport is the latest facility to test out a new 3-D security scanner aimed at enhancing the screening process — but officials are being mum about the devices.

The computer tomography (CT) scanner installed in Terminal 3 has the ability to detect for explosives and other threats by creating a 3-D image that can be rotated for increased analysis by Transportation Security Administration X-ray operators, according to a TSA press release issued in September 2018 when Oakland International Airport received the scanners.

If a bag requires further attention, TSA officers will inspect it to ensure that an unlawful item is not contained inside, the release stated.

While the machines have been installed at McCarran and are in limited use, airport and TSA officials declined to discuss them.

TSA spokeswomen Lorie Dankers said the project is a work in progress and specific information was not readily available.

“What is being installed at McCarran is part of a larger project that is in its early stages,” Dankers said. “This technology has not been widely deployed in the security checkpoints at LAS (McCarran) and there are no plans for it to be widely deployed in the near future.”

Rosemary Vassiliadis, director of the County Department of Aviation, touched on the new scanners in her presentation to the Legislature earlier this year

“A separate checkpoint set up in Terminal 3, in a separate little area,” Vassiliadis said in February. “We’re going to open that up to the public and be able to determine together as a partnership, the airport and the TSA, what’s going to work the best, so we have the best and highest security at the airport.”

During her presentation, Vassiliadis said McCarran was set to test four of the 3-D scanners at the Terminal 3 security checkpoint.

McCarran is one of 15 airports nationwide where the TSA is testing out the new technology for security checkpoints.

The technology is similar to CT technology used in the medical field, according to the TSA.

TSA already uses CT technology to screen checked baggage and is just starting to incorporate it at the security checkpoint. The scanning technology can detect shapes and densities of items including bulk and liquid explosives that could be a threat to commercial aviation.

The new technology could lead to passengers being allowed to carry on larger containers of liquid than the current 3.4 ounces allowed now and to keep their electronics in their bags at a checkpoint.

McCarran is a designated Innovation Task Force site where new technology is deployed and tested before it’s expanded and used nationwide.

One of the first big projects carried out through the TSA innovation initiative at McCarran was the installation of automated screening lanes.

The automated lanes are installed in three of the four TSA checkpoints at McCarran and were first installed in 2017. There are currently 18 automated screening lanes in use at McCarran, with six in Terminal 3, six at the C Annex and six at the C and D gate checkpoint.

Automated screening lanes can process passengers 20 percent to 30 percent faster than the traditional method used at most airports, according to McCarran officials.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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