TSA Testing New CT Scanner That Could Eventually Ease Restrictions On Liquids, Electronics

Image courtesy of TSA

Imagine a future where you can bring a large bottle of water and your laptop or tablet with you into the cabin of a commercial flight. The Transportation Security Administration is testing one of its new computerized tomography (CT) scanning machines for carry-on bags in Phoenix, and will soon launch a test in Boston. The use of these machines in the future could mean fewer restrictions on carry-on items, and faster security screening.

The TSA uses CT scanners on checked baggage, but hasn’t yet introduced them for carry-ons because of the machines’ size and cost, the Associated Press reports. Now, though, the technology holds promise for getting more people through airports faster, and smaller machines have been developed that are an appropriate size for the passenger security checkpoint.


“Small” is a relative term, and the checkpoint-size machines still probably wouldn’t fit in your kitchen. However, the use of high-tech imaging instead of plain X-Rays means that the density of items inside a bag can be calculated, making it easier to detect items that could be explosives. The three-dimensional image can be rotated and manipulated without opening up the bag.

“We already use this type of technology for checked baggage, and we expect these smaller checkpoint-sized machines will provide the same high level of security,” TSA Acting Administrator Huban Gowadia said in a statement.

After authorities became aware of possible terrorist plots involving bombs disguised as consumer electronics, the Department of Homeland Security banned laptops and tablets on flights to the United States from select airports in Africa and the Middle East, and considered a similar ban for flights originating in Europe.

While a laptop restriction could still happen in the future, it won’t for now. Letting passengers bring liquids on board, though, would save a lot of time at check-in and decrease passenger stress over what foods and liquids, like medication and pumped breast milk, they’re able to bring on board a plane.

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