Passengers at London’s Heathrow Airport could soon pass through security without removing liquids and laptops from hand luggage, under plans to introduce high-tech 3D scanners to help ease delays spent waiting in line.
Heathrow, the UK’s busiest airport with 40 million departing passengers last year, is investing over £50 million ($63 million) in the next-generation CT scanners. By 2022, when the new equipment is expected to be fully rolled out, the time-consuming process of placing liquids and laptops separately in trays could be a thing of the past.
A representative for the airport told CNN that the scanners will allow security officials to see inside bags in much greater detail, allowing them to dissect items in 3D layers. Current technology only uses X-rays, which offer a much more limited vision of contents.
The technology won’t alter the 100ml limit on liquids – an international rule introduced in 2006 following a plot to bomb a transatlantic flight using explosives stored in a drinks bottle.
It will nevertheless save passengers from putting them in transparent plastic bags – also allowing the airport to slash its use of single-use plastics.
The airport representative told CNN that the initiative is part of Heathrow’s long-term sustainability plan, as it attempts to cut queuing times in anticipation for a massive increase in passenger numbers following the projected opening of a third runway in 2026.
“Heathrow has a proud history of investing in making every journey better and that’s why we’re delighted to be rolling out our new CT equipment,” Chris Garton, Heathrow’s chief operations officer, said in a statement.
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“This cutting-edge kit will not only keep the airport safe with the latest technology, but will mean that our future passengers can keep their focus on getting on with their journeys and less time preparing for security.”
The airport noted that the technology will allow the screening process to be “even more robust” and will help security officials to provide a “more efficient and seamless search experience.” They added that this will improve privacy for passengers and could “transform the journey through the airport.”
CT scanners have already been introduced at certain airports across mainland Europe and in the US, but Heathrow’s trial represents a UK first.
Heathrow has been working with the Department for Transport since 2017 in order to trial the technology, and aims to support airports across the country in implementing their own trials over the coming months.
Baroness Vere, the UK’s Aviation Minister, welcomed Heathrow’s announcement. “This innovative new equipment will ensure Heathrow continues to provide a safe and smooth travel experience for passengers, as we look to roll out this new screening technology at airports across the country,” she said in a statement to CNN.
“Passengers safety remains our top priority and this program clearly shows the huge importance we place on security.”
The 3D scanning equipment is the latest investment Heathrow has made into cutting-edge technology aimed at improving passenger experience.
In 2018, the airport announced plans to launch its first end-to-end biometrics trial, providing facial recognition technology at each point of the departure process. The technology could eventually allow passengers to pass through the airport without needing a passport.