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3D scanners could reduce 100ml liquid limits at airports by 2024

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Airport security just got a whole lot faster with new cutting-edge technology that scans your hand luggage.

The technology, now being trialled at Heathrow and Gatwick airports, uses computed tomography (CT), which hospitals already use to look inside bodies.

At security, hand luggage passes along a conveyor belt and through advanced machines equipped with CT scanners to look inside the bags.

The scanners produce clear 3D images on the screen that can be rotated 360 degrees and zoomed in by airport staff.

Detection algorithms draw attention to questionable items that warrant further inspection, such as liquid explosives.

The technology will be rolled out in 2024 and means passengers will no longer have to remove liquids and electrical equipment such as laptops from their hand luggage.

Currently, requiring travelers to remove these items and place them in large plastic bins is the biggest cause of airport security delays.

Rules about how much liquid can be carried on planes will also be abolished to coincide with the completed rollout, it said The times.

Airport security gets a lot faster with new cutting-edge technology that scans your carry-on in a more detailed 3D image, instead of traditional X-ray scanners and 2D images

The technology, now being trialled at Heathrow and Gatwick airports, is based on computed tomography (CT) already used by hospitals to view the insides of bodies

The technology, now being trialled at Heathrow and Gatwick airports, is based on computed tomography (CT) already used by hospitals to view the insides of bodies

HOW DO THE SCANNERS WORK?

The technology is based on computed tomography (CT) – an imaging procedure already used by hospitals to see inside bodies.

At security, hand luggage passes through a conveyor belt and through advanced machines equipped with CT scanners to look inside the bags.

The scanners produce clear 3D images on the screen that can be rotated 360 degrees and zoomed in by airport staff.

Algorithms draw attention to questionable items that warrant further inspection.

The new equipment scans passengers’ luggage in 3D, giving security officials a much more detailed view compared to traditional X-ray scanners and the resulting 2D images.

Heathrow won’t reveal to MailOnline which firms are supplying the machines, although a firm called Analogic has already installed them at US airports.

According to The Times, the Department for Transport (DfT) has told the UK’s major airports to replace older screening technology with the new CT system by summer 2024.

The UK government previously said the technology would be rolled out across the country by the end of 2022, but these plans have been delayed by the Covid pandemic.

An official announcement from the government about the rollout is now expected before Christmas.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye told The Times the machines are slowly being rolled out across the airport.

“We have just started expanding the security area in Terminal 3, which will have more CT scanners and has a mid-2024 deadline from the DfT,” he said.

“By then, the normal passenger experience will be for liquids to remain in bags.”

Currently, liquids in carry-on luggage must be in 100ml containers that must fit into a single, clear, resealable plastic bag measuring approximately 8 inches by 8 inches.

Currently, the biggest cause of airport security delays is requiring travelers to remove plastic bags containing liquids and laptops from their carry-ons and place them on large plastic bins

Currently, the biggest cause of airport security delays is requiring travelers to remove plastic bags containing liquids and laptops from their carry-ons and place them on large plastic bins

Heathrow would not reveal to MailOnline which companies are supplying the machines, although a company called Analogic has already installed it at airports in the US.

Heathrow would not reveal to MailOnline which companies are supplying the machines, although a company called Analogic has already installed it at airports in the US.

CURRENT UK AIRPORT RESTRICTIONS

All pieces of baggage, including hand baggage and hold baggage, must be screened by airport security.

Hand luggage may contain liquids, but they must be in containers no larger than 100 ml (unless there are special exceptions).

These 100 ml packs should be placed in a single, clear, resealable plastic bag measuring approximately 20 by 20 cm.

Electronic devices such as laptops should be charged prior to travel as if left unpowered they may appear to have been tampered with and will therefore not be allowed on an aircraft.

When passing through security, this plastic bag must be placed in a plastic bin as it passes through a 2D scanning machine along a conveyor belt.

New CT scanning technology allows travelers to store their liquids in their luggage, as the CT scans give staff better and more detailed images of what’s inside.

Once the technology is rolled out nationwide, the 100ml liquid limit may no longer apply, meaning passengers may be able to take liquids, such as a bottle of water or a bottle of shampoo, through security.

The 100ml rule was introduced in 2006 after a planned al-Qaeda terrorist attack against seven planes departing from Heathrow – using peroxide-based liquid explosives disguised as soda – was thwarted by authorities.

If successful, it would have been the largest al-Qaeda attack on the West since 9/11.

The restrictions on the amount of liquids brought into an aircraft cabin were intended only as a temporary measure until suitable technology became available to screen liquids for explosives.

Now, more than 15 years later, CT scanners have been scaled down to fit practically in airports, while algorithms have been developed that can distinguish harmless liquid from liquid explosives.

The CT machines create a clear picture of the contents of a bag and the algorithms can automatically detect liquid explosives in containers, as well as solid explosives such as a tampered laptop with a bomb.

For the first time since 2006, rules prohibiting passengers from taking drinks and toiletries containers larger than 100ml at major UK airports will disappear.  Pictured: Queuing for airport security at Heathrow in April this year

For the first time since 2006, rules prohibiting passengers from taking drinks and toiletries containers larger than 100ml at major UK airports will disappear. Pictured: Queuing for airport security at Heathrow in April this year

The Times has learned that the 100ml rule will be phased out in 2024 to coincide with the technology’s completed rollout. MailOnline has contacted the DfT for confirmation.

Because the rollout of CT technology will be relatively gradual, some experts are concerned that there will be different security rules depending on the airport, which could lead to confusion among passengers.

An anonymous aviation source warned The Times that passengers will see ‘mixed messages’ in the run-up to 2024.

“As the scanners become more commonplace, passengers in some lanes will be told not to take items out of their bags, while in other lanes they will still have to do so,” the source said.

HOW THE 2006 TERRORIST PLOT CHANGED FLYING

It was the crackdown on a terrorist plot in 2006 that sparked chaos in Britain’s airports and changed the way air passengers travel, with the introduction of sweeping security measures.

Would-be suicide bombers Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Waheed Khan and Waheed Zaman were recruited by the British-born leader of the terror cell who conspired to blow transatlantic airlines out of the sky with homemade liquid bombs disguised as soda.

Counter-terrorism agents discovered suicide videos at the homes of the three men, shot against a backdrop of a black flag and containing threats to the public.

Pakistan-born Khan threatened in his video: “We will rain so much terror and destruction on you that you will never feel peace and security.”

All three defendants were in the process of obtaining new passports, emptying their bank accounts or taking out loans and visiting the house of Abdulla Ahmed Ali, the convicted leader.

As part of the general plot, Ali had been in contact with Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, sending them coded emails informing them of his efforts to recruit suicide bombers.

The flights he selected were from UK airports to Toronto, Montreal, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington and New York and were hidden on a memory stick Ali was carrying when he was arrested.

If successful, the explosions could have matched or surpassed the destruction and devastation of the September 11 attacks.

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