As the world becomes increasingly digitized—think self-checkout stations at the grocery store or electronic kiosks at fast-food restaurants—the next step could be the way we are screened at airports. Recently, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) announced plans to pilot a new self-service screening at airports for those enrolled in the Trusted Traveler Program (TTP).

What would that look like? According to Screening at Speed Program (the name of the S&T initiative) Manager Dr. John Fortune, “Travelers will use passenger and carry-on screening systems at individual consoles or screening lanes themselves, reducing the number of pat downs and bag inspections Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) need to perform and freeing their time to be reallocated to the busier aspects of screening operations.”

He adds that “the feedback we’ve already received during testing from both mock passengers and TSOs has been incredibly positive.”

As the number of air travelers continue to rise and exceed pre-pandemic levels, S&T’s Screening at Speed team and its Transportation Security Laboratory (TSL) have partnered with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Innovation Task Force (ITF) to develop and test solutions to build the foundation for “the next generation of airport screening.”

The process would reduce person-to-person contact, the number of bags TSOs have to pick up and move around, and the amount of time it would take passengers to complete screening. Currently three prototypes are being tested at various airports, including Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C. and Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey. In January, another prototype will debut at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas.

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