New tech aids social distancing, reduces high touch situations at Reagan and Dulles airports

The Transportation Security Administration is introducing new technology in phases that will help passengers and screening officers maintain social distancing and limit exposure to “high-touch” areas.

There are now do-it-your-self ID checks at some security posts at the D.C. region’s Reagan National and Dulles International airports.

“What you do as a passenger is insert your driver’s license or lay your passport on a plate by yourself, and so there’s no need to pass the credential back and forth between you and the officer,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske.

Also, where that technology is installed, people don’t need to show their boarding passes. TSA databases will show the screening officer the passengers’ PreCheck or “standard lane” status, as well as flight information.

“We’ve got about 40% of our identity verification locations equipped with this technology now. So, it will probably take us another couple of years before it’s ubiquitous across all airports,” Pekoske said.

Where the credential authentication technology is not in use, passengers are asked to self-scan boarding passes.

“Again, trying to reduce that touch,” he said.

Another project just getting underway involves more sensitive scanning technology that eliminates the need to unload items such as liquids, aerosols, gels and opened laptops or tablets into bins.

“It’s called computed tomography, but basically it’s the CT scan technology that’s used in the medical industry,” Pekoske said, explaining that the images are so detailed they’re likely to save time. “If we have any questions about what’s in your carry-on bag, oftentimes, we can resolve it on-screen, rather than having to do a bag search.”

Only recently have the CT X-ray scanning machines become small enough to be practical for use at airport security checkpoints.

With the onset of the pandemic, rules requiring containers of liquids, aerosols and gels not to exceed 3.1 ounces were adjusted to allow hand sanitizers as large as 12 ounces.

You can find out what should be packed in a carry-on versus a checked bag on the TSA homepage, which has a “What can I bring?” feature.

Another pandemic related adjustment extends until Oct. 1, 2021 — the requirement for use of a Real-ID or other approved identification to board U.S. flights. Find out what’s involved in getting a Real-ID online.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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