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New 3D scanners could end liquid restrictions onboard flights

New 3D scanners

New high-tech 3D scanners have been tipped to put an end to airport security restrictions on liquids

Security rules on liquids and laptops in airport hand luggage could be abolished within two years with the adoption of new 3D scanners. The equipment, which is similar to CT scanners used in hospitals, provides a far clearer picture of a bag’s contents.

UK Ministers have been carrying out a review and an announcement is due before Christmas. It is hoped the new technology could cut down on queues in UK airports.

People failing to remove items from their bags or travelling with large bottles of liquids and creams are the biggest cause of delays at airport security. The limits were introduced in 2006 due to many foiled transatlantic terrorist attacks.

CT scanners produce a high-resolution 3D scan of passengers’ bags, allowing operators to inspect a bag from every angle. Older machines produce a 2D, lower-quality, image of luggage.

Passengers are currently required to remove tablets, laptops, and liquids from their cabin baggage. Liquids must not exceed 100ml and must be in a clear plastic bag.

Shannon Airport in Ireland has dropped the requirement with the introduction of a new liquid screening process. However, items must fit inside hand luggage. The airport said the move “halved the time our passengers spend going through security screening”.

A trial of the new technology started at Heathrow in 2019, with the Department for Transport reportedly telling major UK airports that older screening methods must be replaced in full by the summer of 2024. 

No more plastic bags

Former transport secretary Grant Shapps previously said it could “mean an end to passengers having to use plastic bags or rationing what they take away with them” if it was successful.

“We are slowly rolling them out,” said Heathrow Airport chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, adding:

“We have just started the expansion of the security area in Terminal 3 which will have more CT scanners and have a deadline of mid-2024 from the [Department for Transport]. 

By then the normal passenger experience will be that liquids stay in bags.”

If all goes well, expect to see 3D scanners in operation in the summer of 2024.

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