Federal airport security officials have introduced a pioneering initiative at the bustling Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, showcasing passenger self-screening lanes with plans for nationwide implementation.

Dimitri Kusnezov, the Science and Technology Under Secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, expressed enthusiasm, describing the initiative as a significant stride towards the future. “How do we step into the future? This is a step,” he emphasized, highlighting the crucial role of human interaction in the innovative system.

Exclusive to TSA PreCheck customers and currently available only in Las Vegas, the self-screening lanes are designed to streamline the pre-flight screening process. John Fortune, the Program Manager of the Department of Homeland Security’s “Screening at Speed” program, emphasized the aim of minimizing the need for passenger pat-downs, underscoring the system’s user-friendly interface and self-guided instructions.

Gone are the traditional belt-fed devices and gray trays; instead, the system boasts a futuristic design reminiscent of a scaled-down starship medical scanner. Equipped with an automated bin return mechanism that sanitizes trays using germ-killing ultraviolet light, the system prioritizes hygiene and efficiency.

Travelers are guided through a transparent body scanning booth featuring millimeter-wave technology, allowing for precise screening without the need for removal of shoes or excessive physical contact. Christina Peach, a TSA administrator involved in system design, emphasized the importance of allowing individuals to navigate the process at their own pace, free from the pressure of rushed interactions with officers.

The benefits of the self-screening lanes extend beyond convenience; statistically, TSA PreCheck enrollees pass through screening in ten minutes or less, compared to the average 30-minute wait for regular travelers. Despite the streamlined process, the new system is anticipated to require fewer staff, potentially reducing the number of officers needed from 12 to 8.

Karen Burke, TSA Federal Security Director in Nevada, assured that the implementation of the self-screening lanes wouldn’t result in job losses. Instead, officers would be redeployed to focus on broader security concerns, enhancing overall safety measures.

While the cost of the system remains undisclosed, officials have indicated that the technology utilized is similar to existing scanners deployed nationwide. Evaluations are underway to gauge the efficiency of the prototype, with testing conducted at an innovative “innovation checkpoint” established in 2019 within the sprawling international arrivals terminal at Harry Reid airport.

Reflecting on the introduction of self-checkout lanes in supermarkets decades ago, Keith Jeffries, a former TSA director, anticipates a gradual acceptance and adoption of the new screening system. As travel evolves, there is a growing demand for streamlined processes that prioritize efficiency and minimal disruption.

As one of the busiest airports in the U.S., Harry Reid International Airport’s adoption of this cutting-edge technology signifies a significant step towards modernizing airport security protocols. With a record-breaking number of passengers passing through the airport annually, the need for efficient screening measures has never been more pressing.

By Impact Lab