Pilot program is an alternative to pat-down
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has begun implementing pilot programs of “millimeter wave technology,” which can detect items concealed under clothing without any physical contact, at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York.
Millimeter wave technology, which detects concealed items such as weapons and explosives, is currently in use at Phoenix Sky-Harbor International Airport and is an alternative to the physical pat-down, Transportation Security Administration officials said.
“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 machines will be used at LAX in a “random continuous protocol,” according to the Transportation Security Administration. Alternative screening measures will be offered to individuals who decline to go through millimeter wave screening when asked to do so.
The LAX program enables TSA to examine the technology’s operational capability, throughput, training, ease of use and privacy perceptions by the traveling public, officials said.
The metal detector will remain in place at the security checkpoint and passengers will pass through it after going through the millimeter wave machine.
The technology is a voluntary alternative to a pat-down during secondary screening. During the Phoenix program, 90 percent of passengers have chosen the technology over the traditional pat-down, according to TSA.
At both LAX and JFK, 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.
To ensure privacy, security officers will view images from a remote location. The security officer cannot determine the identity of the passenger from that location, either visually or other- wise, but can communicate with a fellow officer at the checkpoint if an alarm is produced, officials said. The face of the passenger will be blurred in the image to further protect privacy.
Millimeter wave technology 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, according to TSA.
The technology is safe and the energy emitted by millimeter wave technology is 10,000 times less than that of a cell phone, officials said.