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Awkward pose no more: Denver airport first to get new TSA full-body scanner that lets passengers keep hands at their side

The goal is to have the new technology -- both the updated scanners and bin process -- be in place when the airport’s $1.8 billion Great Hall renovation is complete

From left: Larry Nau, federal security director with the Transportation Security Administration, explains a new millimiter-wave, fully-body scanner now being used at Denver International Airport on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, as TSA agents in plain clothes test out the device. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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The awkward hands-in-the-air pose passengers at airport security checkpoints across the U.S. have been making for years while passing through full-body scanners might soon be a thing of the past.

New technology being operated by the Transportation Security Administration at Denver International Airport allows travelers to keep their hands at their side when screened by those millimeter-wave devices.

“We are the first U.S. airport to be piloting this technology,” airport CEO Kim Day told reporters Monday.

Denver International Airport CEO Kim Day speaks to reporters on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

The new scanner uses the same basic process as the old ones. But what might seem like a nominal change — keeping your hands at your side as opposed to raising them in the air — actually can save a lot of time, said Larry Nau, a TSA federal security director overseeing the agency’s Denver operations.

“For the travelers that have a difficult time raising their arms up over their head, this new technology is much easier to navigate through,” Nau said. “… The real speed is the determination on, ‘Is there a threat item on the body?’ That’s much quicker — seconds quicker. When you’re processing over 70,000 travelers a day, seconds pick up. They make a difference.”

Also gone with the new scanner: the whirring, mechanical device from the older full-body scanners.

Plainclothes Transportation Security Administration employees show off new full-body scanner technology at Denver International Airport on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

So far, only one new scanner with the updated tech operates at DIA, at the airport’s north security checkpoint, as it’s tested over the next three months. Officials hope the technology will be the future of passenger screening at the hub.

The new scanner comes as Denver’s airport works to get ahead of the game when it comes to security screening for air travelers. It paid for the device itself — a large part of why the technology is being tested in the Mile High City.

Also, in September TSA introduced automated screening lanes at DIA aimed at speeding up the pace of bins carrying passenger items through screening.

Passengers use the automated security checkpoint lanes at DIA on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

The goal is to have the new technology — both the updated scanners and the new bin process — ironed by the time security checkpoints move in 2020 as part of the airport’s $1.8 billion Great Hall renovation.

Nau added that the scanners are safe. “Actually, your cell phones emit more radiation, or harmful things, than this technology will” he said.

The new scanner went into operation last week at the airport.


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