It’s one of the biggest hassles surrounding air travel, but maybe not for much longer – especially if one tech company has its way. 

 A laptop and other electronic parts are displayed three-dimensionally on the screen of a Smiths Detection baggage scanner.
Smiths Detection baggage scanners display laptops and other electronics in 3D. Image © Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images

Earlier this year, the Transportation Security Administration announced that it would be introducing computed tomography (CT) at screening checkpoints across the US, which would enable passengers to keep their laptops and liquids in their carry-ons throughout the process. Though the TSA has been testing the technology – courtesy of a $96.8 million contract with Smiths Detection – at a handful of airports since 2017, it’s yet to implement the new scanners on a broad basis. 

Security agent holding gatorade bottle talking to passenger
The new scanners mean that passengers will no longer have to take out their liquids before boarding. Image © Fairfax Media via Getty Images

But meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, that very same technology has gone live in Melbourne, the first major airport in Australia to install the 3D X-rays on a permanent basis. Four new security lanes have been introduced for domestic departures from Terminal 4, with two more scheduled for roll-out over the next two months, as well as another seven at the international terminal. Airport officials expect to achieve complete compliance by next year, according to Traveller

Security agent looking at x-ray screen
The 3D scanners at Melbourne Airport have touchscreens, a change made to the design after last year's successful trial. Image © simonkr/Getty Images

In a press release, Melbourne Airport’s head of security and emergency Scott Dullard said the new scanners, which provide advanced explosives detection, have cut screening times by 50% – the process now takes just over a minute from start to finish. “The new technology allows analysis of 3D images, improving security outcomes by providing security staff with greater detail and functionality to conduct their assessments,” he said. 

Alongside the new scanners, the airport has also installed an automated tray-return system to expedite the process. Collectively, per Traveller, Dullard said the new tech would allow Terminal 4 to process 3000 people per hour at peak times, up from 2000 – and the airport predicts that some 35 million people will pass through this year. 

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