Cutting-edge security technology at McCarran Airport

Paul Szydelko

After a pause because of the pandemic, the TSA is once again evaluating emerging security technologies at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas.

The TSA’s first Innovation Checkpoint is back in operation in Terminal 3 after being shut down during the pandemic.  Officers direct passengers headed to the main checkpoint to go to the four-lane area as needed, a TSA spokeswoman said.

McCarran was chosen because of the number of passengers it serves and because it had space in Terminal 3 to build out the Innovation Checkpoint.

“The passenger profile at McCarran is a real cross-section of locals, tourists, convention-goers, business travelers, groups, etc., perfect for piloting new technologies,” the spokeswoman said.

The security effectiveness and operational efficiency of new technologies in a real-life setting are being tested at McCarran as part of the Innovation Checkpoint. They include:

• Credential authentication technology (CAT). Travelers are asked to insert their photo ID into a CAT unit instead of handing it to a TSA officer. The unit, linked to a Secure Flight database, scans and analyzes the ID. With enhanced fraudulent ID-detection capabilities, it verifies the traveler’s identity, confirms flight details and displays pre-screening status such as TSA PreCheck.

• Automated screening lanes integrated with computed tomography X-ray scanners. Combining these technologies in every lane promotes the uninterrupted movement of carry-on luggage. It automates traditionally manual tasks such as replacing bins from the back to the front of the checkpoint.

• UV-C light sanitation system. A high dose of UV-C light, proven to inactivate bacteria and viruses including Covid-19, sanitizes bins.

• eAIT body scanner. The flat-panel scanners use millimeter wave technology instead of an X-ray image to screen travelers for security threats. It has an updated, non-gender-specific algorithm and enables travelers to keep their hands at their side instead of over their head. It also alerts officers if the traveler is incorrectly positioned before screening to reduce the number of follow-up pat-downs.

• Digital signage. Messaging to prepare travelers for security screening can be updated in real time. It can also be integrated with traveler-movement analytics to show wait times and availability of TSA PreCheck screening.

“TSA and McCarran International Airport cooperatively understand the long-term value of testing the latest technologies from a variety of vendors in a single location,” said Austin Gould, TSA assistant administrator for requirements and capabilities analysis. “This partnership will have a lasting impact on aviation security as we strive to leverage private-sector innovation to stay ahead of emerging security threats, ultimately benefiting the traveling public.”

The TSA first screened passengers through the Innovation Checkpoint at McCarran in late summer 2019 before closing it during the pandemic. It was reopened with upgraded technologies to coincide with the growth in commercial air travel.

The Innovation Checkpoint will be open for the foreseeable future and continue to evolve with potential new technologies being installed, the spokeswoman said.

McCarran will soon be renamed Harry Reid Airport.

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