DENVER -- The TSA has begun trialing a screening system that allows passengers to pose with their arms down, rather than the arms-above-the-head pose required for existing systems. 

The U.S.'s first Enhanced Advanced Imaging Technology screening station is now operating at Denver's airport. If the system performs as expected, the TSA expects to gradually roll out the next-generation technology at airports around the country.

A demonstration of the Enhanced Advanced Imaging Technology scanner. Photo Credit: Robert Silk

"The technology will not only focus on threat protection, but will also smooth the experience for the traveler," TSA federal security director for Colorado Larry Nau told the media ahead of a demonstration of the new technology Monday.

Nau said the system is seconds quicker than the agency's longstanding scanners for each flyer who passes through screening. By not requiring passengers to stand with their arms above the head, it is also more comfortable, he said. From the perspective of health, it uses a type of non-ionizing radio-frequency energy that emits less radiation than a cell phone.

In the demonstration, individuals posed briefly for the scanners with their arms at their side. Video screens then informed agents of whether the subjects could be cleared, if they needed additional inspection or if the scan didn't work.

In cases where the scan didn't work, agents were able to redo the screenings after asking the subject to make a positioning adjustment -- an improvement over present TSA technology, which requires the person to step out of the machine and then back in if they are to be scanned again.

The system can have up to three stations for passengers who require additional screening, rather than just the one that current TSA systems support, which Nau said will speed the process.

The Enhanced Advanced Imaging Technology system at Denver's airport will be tested for 90 days. The TSA will measure its effectiveness from both a safety and efficiency standard. The agency will learn whether the system results in officers having to perform few intrusive physical pat downs, as it expects.

If the system passes the test, Denver Airport could be one of its first major users. The airport said the scanning technology could be implemented airport-wide by 2021, when a renovation of its main terminal's Great Hall is slated for completion.


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