Technology Used for Passenger Screening, Baggage Screening and More
Credential Authentication Technology
The Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) automatically authenticates identity documents that are presented to TSA by passengers during the security checkpoint screening process. Early last year, TSA issued a Request for Information (RFI) to conduct market research to better understand capabilities available in industry for CAT. TSA anticipates that the new technology will enhance security and increase efficiency by automatically verifying passenger identification and obtaining the passenger’s vetting status.
Advanced Imaging Technology
Advanced imaging technology safely screens passengers for metallic and nonmetallic threats, including weapons and explosives, which may be concealed under clothing without physical contact to help TSA keep the traveling public safe. Click here to learn more about how the technology works, safety measures, and the privacy protocols in place.
Retinal scans. Fingerprint identification. A few years ago these things seemed like something out of a science fiction movie. Today, they are becoming an important parts of our risk-based approach to security.
Biometric identification allows us to verify a person is who they say they are by using their own unique set of identifiers - fingerprints, iris scans or a combination of the two. We continue to test this technology at airports and harbors across the country, allowing us to control access to important facilities.
Bottled Liquids Scanners
Bottled liquids scanner (BLS) screening systems are used across the nation by Transportation Security Officers to detect potential liquid or gel threats which may be contained in a passenger's property. The technology differentiates liquid explosives from common, benign liquids and is used primarily to screen medically necessary liquids in quantities larger than 3.4 ounces.
BLS units use a variety of technologies including lasers, infrared, and electromagnetic resonance. Current units may be used to screen clear and tinted glass and plastic bottles.
Following the disruption of the UK/US airline bombing plot in August 2006, TSA issued new rules that, with a few exceptions, effectively banned liquids, gels, and aerosols on aircraft. After conducting extensive research, TSA determined small amounts of liquids are not a threat. On September 26, 2006, TSA permitted small amounts of liquids, gels and aerosols in travel size containers, and exempted baby formula/milk/juices, medicines, and other medically-required liquids.
Explosives Detection System
Ever wonder what happens to your bag once you check it with your airline? We screen every bag placed on an airplane, whether taken as carry-on or checked with an airline. With nearly 2 million people flying each day, it's a Herculean task.
We are able to meet this requirement by using Explosive Detection System (EDS) machines, which work like the CT machines in a doctor's office. Through a sophisticated analysis of each checked bag, the EDS machines can quickly capture an image of a single bag and determine if a bag contains a potential threat item . If a bag requires additional screening, it may be automatically diverted to a resolution room where security officers will quickly inspect it to ensure it doesn’t contain a threat item. Once cleared, the bag is reintroduced to the system, where it continues onto the aircraft. In some cases, the alarm is quickly resolved and in others law enforcement and/or the bomb squad may be called in.
When used in conjunction with an airport's automated inline baggage handling system, we achieve dramatic improvements in both security and efficiency.
Explosives Trace Detection
Explosives Trace Detection (ETD) is technology used at security checkpoints around the country to screen baggage and passengers for traces of explosives. Officers may swab a piece of carry-on or checked baggage or a passenger’s hands and then place the swab inside the ETD unit to analyze it for the presence of potential explosive residue.
In 2010, TSA expanded its use of ETD technology in airports as part of our layered approach to aviation security and to keep passengers safe.
Passengers may experience screening of their hands using an ETD swab at the security checkpoint, in the checkpoint queue, or boarding areas. To ensure the health of travelers, screening swabs are disposed of after each use. Since ETD technology is used on a random basis, passengers should not expect to see the same thing at every airport or each time they travel.
Read TSA's press release: TSA Expands Use of Explosives Trace Detection Technology at Airports Nationwide
Paperless Boarding Pass
The paperless boarding pass pilot enables passengers to download their boarding pass on their cell phones or personal digital assistants (PDAs). This innovative approach streamlines the customer experience while heightening the ability to detect fraudulent boarding passes. Each paperless boarding pass is displayed as an encrypted two-dimensional bar code along with passenger and flight information. TSA security officers use scanners to validate the authenticity of the boarding pass at the checkpoint.
As of April 2011, the pilot was operating at 89 U.S. airports with seven airlines: Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, United, US Airways, and Virgin America.
Due to the rapid expansion of the program, airlines may offer paperless boarding pass at additional airports before they are added to this list. Airlines will make this option available when passengers choose their method of boarding pass delivery.
- Albany County (ALB) –Continental, Delta, United
- Albuquerque International (ABQ) – American, Continental, Delta, United
- Amarillo International (AMA) – Continental, United
- Anchorage (ANK) – Alaska, Delta, Continental
- Aspen Pitkin County Sardy Field (ASE_ - United
- Atlanta Hartsfield International (ATL) – American, Continental, Delta, United
- Austin-Bergstrom International (AUS) – Continental, American
- Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) – Continental, United
- Bellingham International (BLI) – Alaska
- Boise/Gowan Field (BOI) - Alaska
- Boston Logan International (BOS) – American, Continental, Delta, United, Virgin
- Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena (BUR) – Alaska
- Charlotte Douglas International (CLT) – Continental, American, US Airways
- Chicago Midway (MDW) – Delta
- Chicago O-Hare International (ORD) – American, Continental, Delta, United
- Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International (CVG) – Delta, United
- Cleveland Hopkins (CLE) – Continental, American, United
- Colorado Springs Municipal (COS) – Continental, United
- Dallas Ft.-Worth (DFW) – American, Continental, United
- Dallas Love Field (DAL) – Continental, United
- Dane County Regional (MSN) - Delta
- Denver International (DEN) – Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, United
- Des Moines International (DSM) – Continental, United
- Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County (DTW) – American, Continental, Delta, United
- El Paso International (ELP) – American, Continental
- Fairbanks International (FAI) – Alaska
- Fresno Air Terminal (FAT) - United
- Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL) – Continental
- Grand Rapids Gerald R. Ford International (GRR) - Continental
- Greenville-Spartanburg (GSP) - United
- Guam Antonio B. Won Pat International (GUM) – Continental
- Harrisburg International (MDT) – Continental, United
- Hartford Bradley International (BDL) – Delta, Continental, United
- Helena Regional (HLN) - United
- Honolulu (HNC) – Continental, United
- Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) – American, Continental, Delta, United
- Indianapolis International (IND) – Continental, Delta, United
- Jackson Hole (JAC) - United
- Jacksonville (JAX) – Continental, Delta, American
- Kansas City International (MCI) – American, Continental, United
- Kahululi Hawaii (OGG) – Alaska, United
- Kona International (KOA) – Alaska, United
- Las Vegas McCarren (LAS) – Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, United, US Airways, Virgin
- Lihue Alaska (LIH) – Alaska, United
- Little Rock Adams Field (LIT) – American, Delta, United
- Long Beach Daugherty Field (LGB) - Alaska
- Los Angeles International (LAX) – Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, United, Virgin
- Lubbock International (LBB) –Continental, United
- Mammoth Yosemite (MMH) - United
- Memphis International (MEM) – American, Continental, Delta, United
- Miami International Airport (MIA) – Continental
- Milwaukee General Mitchell International (MKE) – Delta
- Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP) – Continental, Delta, American
- Nashville International (BNA) - Delta
- Newark International (EWR) – Continental, Delta, United
- New Orleans International (MSY) – Continental, United
- New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) – American, Delta, United, Virgin
- New York LaGuardia (LGA) – American, Continental, Delta, United
- Northwest Arkansas Regional (XNA) – American, Delta
- Oakland Metropolitan International (OAK) – Alaska, United
- Oklahoma Will Rogers (OKC) – American, Continental, Delta, United
- Ontario International (ONT) – Alaska
- Orange County John Wayne (SNA) – American, Continental, Delta, United
- Orlando International (MCO) – American, Continental, Delta, United
- Palm Springs Regional (PSP) – Alaska
- Philadelphia International (PHL) – Continental, United
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX) – American, Continental, United
- Pittsburgh International (PIT) – Delta, US Air
- Port Columbus International (CMH) - Continental, United
- Portland International (PDX) – Alaska, American, Continental, Delta
- Raleigh-Durham International (RDU) – Continental, Delta, United
- Sacramento Metropolitan (SMF) – Alaska, Continental, United
- Salt Lake City International (SLC) – American, Continental, Delta, United
- San Antonio International (SAT) – Continental, American, United
- San Diego International (SAN) – Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, United
- San Francisco International (SFO) – American, Continental, United, Virgin
- San Jose International (SJC) – Alaska, Delta, United
- San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU) – American, Continental, United
- Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA) – Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, United
- Sioux Falls Regional (FSD) - United
- Southwest Florida International (RSW) – Continental
- Spokane International (GEG) – Alaska
- St. Louis Lambert International (STL) – Continental, United
- Tampa International (TPA) – Continental, United
- Tulsa International (TUL) – American, Continental, United
- Tucson International (TUS) -- Alaska
- Washington Dulles International (IAD) – American, Continental, Delta, United
- Washington National (DCA) – Continental, Delta, United
- West Palm Beach, FL (PBI) – Continental
How It Works
The electronic boarding pass contains a two-dimensional (2-D) barcode encrypted with specific passenger information, such as the traveler's name and flight information.
At the checkpoint, a TSA travel document checking officer will instruct the passenger on how to scan their cell phone or PDA so that TSA can verify the authenticity of the boarding pass. Passengers will still be required to show photo identification so officers can validate that the name on the boarding pass matches the name on the ID.
Threat Image Projection (TIP)
In addition to classroom training, we use on-the-job training to keep our security officers' skills sharp. Through the daily use of Threat Image Projection (TIP) software program, our security officers are routinely tested on their ability to detect weapons and explosives by X-ray. Potential threats, including guns and explosives, are projected onto X-ray images of carry-on bags so our security officers remain focused and attentive.
These tests allow us to evaluate individual performance and shape our training programs appropriately. Because our X-ray equipment is linked to a vast internal network, every airport and X-ray monitor receives automatic image updates from the technology lab. This link allows us to quickly upgrade our technology using the latest intelligence on potential and emerging threats and convey it to security officers across the nation.