TSA pilots millimeter wave technology at Miami International Airport; advanced technology X-ray also deployed

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Local Press Release
Monday, July 21, 2008

MIAMI – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced today a pilot of millimeter wave technology at Miami International Airport (MIA). Millimeter wave detects weapons, explosives and other threat items concealed under layers of clothing without any physical contact. It is a promising alternative to the physical pat-down.

"The use of whole body imaging is a significant step forward in checkpoint technology," said TSA Administrator Kip Hawley. "By expanding the use of millimeter wave, we are providing our officers with another tool to enhance security and protect the public from evolving threats."

Millimeter wave is currently in use at Los Angeles (LAX), John F. Kennedy (JFK) in New York, Baltimore-Washington, Denver, Albuquerque, Ronald Reagan Washington, Detroit, Dallas/Fort Worth and Phoenix Sky-Harbor airports.

In Miami, millimeter wave will be used in a random continuous protocol. Alternative screening measures will be offered to individuals who decline to go through millimeter wave.

The pilots enable TSA to examine millimeter wave's operational capability, throughput, training, ease of use, and privacy perceptions by the traveling public. Metal detectors will remain in place at the checkpoints. Each passenger will pass through the traditional metal detector after going through the millimeter wave machine.

MIA’s first two millimeter wave machines are in use at Concourse G and Concourse J checkpoints. An additional four machines will be placed in operation later this summer and in the fall.

Millimeter wave at JFK is being piloted as a secondary screening device similar to its use in Phoenix. The technology is a voluntary alternative to a pat-down during secondary screening. During the Phoenix pilot, 90 percent of passengers have chosen the technology over the traditional pat-down.

In all locations, a transportation security officer will guide passengers through the process, which involves stepping into the machine and remaining still for a matter of seconds while the technology creates a three-dimensional image of the passenger from two antennas that simultaneously rotate around the body. Once complete, the passenger will step through the opposite side of the millimeter wave portal.

To ensure privacy, security officers view images from a remote location. From that location, the security officer cannot ascertain the identity of the passenger, either visually or otherwise, but can communicate with a fellow officer at the checkpoint if an alarm is presented. A security algorithm will be applied to the image to blur the face of each passenger, further protecting privacy. Images can not be stored, printed or transmitted and are deleted forever once cleared.

Millimeter wave uses electromagnetic waves to generate an image based on the energy reflected from the body. Active millimeter wave technology passes harmless electromagnetic waves over the human body to create a robotic image. It is safe and the energy emitted by millimeter wave technology is 10,000 times less than that of a cell phone. TSA recently announced it will purchase and deploy 30 more of the machines this year.

Millimeter wave is currently in use or under evaluation in several international transportation settings including the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Japan and Thailand. For more information about passenger imaging, please visit www.tsa.gov.

The Transportation Security Administration at Miami International Airport is also deploying greatly enhanced explosive detection capabilities for carry-on baggage. Multi-view advanced technology X-ray machines recently deployed at several checkpoints display clearer and more detailed images; have the ability to be upgraded as enhanced algorithms and computer programs emerge; have a stable, low maintenance platform; and are smaller than previously available explosive detection systems.

"The additional capability of AT scanners gives immediate benefit to our security officers in making security evaluations of carry-on bags," said Administrator Hawley. "These machines help both effectiveness and efficiency."

While this type of technology has been used worldwide for checked baggage, the roll-out of this technology to checkpoints across the country is an historical event in the evolution of the modern checkpoint.

For more information about millimeter wave and AT X-ray, visit www.tsa.gov.