Las Vegas Airport: A Testbed For New Security Checkpoint Technologies

Las Vegas McCarran is home to the first and only Innovation Checkpoint, and features some unique facilities to improve and enhance the passenger screening process. The technologies are tested out in real-life situations, with data collected to inform future investments. The facility gives us a glimpse into some of the work being done to make our travel lives easier in the future.

Las Vegas is home to casinos, hotels and a very interesting security checkpoint. Photo: McCarran Airport

McCarran International’s unique checkpoint

Back in 2019, the TSA revealed a first-of-its-kind security checkpoint at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Called the ‘Innovation Checkpoint’, this collaboration between the airport and TSA’s Innovation Task Force was designed to allow for side-by-side testing and evaluation of emerging security technologies in a live checkpoint environment.

During the pandemic, the Innovation Checkpoint, which is located in Terminal 3 at McCarran, was closed. But this gave its operators vital months to remodel and rework the facilities at this unique location. Reopened on June 7th this year, the facility is working to test even more groundbreaking technologies, gathering data to inform future investment.

Las Vegas Innovation Checkpoint
The facility tests out new technology to gather data on its usefulness. Photo: TSA

It’s the first and only one of its kind, and offers us an interesting insight into the future of air travel.

What’s in the Innovation Checkpoint?

Not everyone will get to use the Innovation Checkpoint, as it only makes up four lanes of the huge security area at Terminal 3. TSA officers will direct some passengers who are headed for the main checkpoint to divert to the Innovation Checkpoint area instead.

Las Vegas Innovation Checkpoint
Only some passengers will get to use the Innovation Checkpoint. Photo: TSA

As passengers approach the checkpoint, they may notice that there are more digital signs that would be found at regular checkpoints. This signage prepares travelers for security screening, and can be updated in real time to provide specific information or to inform or wait times at the checkpoint, for example.

Las Vegas Innovation Checkpoint
Signs can be updated in real time to show different information. Photo: Synect

Contactless journeys are a key focus for many airports now, and the Innovation Checkpoint is testing out some of the latest developments in this field. One such component is its Credential Authentication Technology (CAT), which allows passengers to insert their photo ID into the unit instead of handing it to a TSA officer. The CAT is linked to a secure flight database, and is capable of detecting fraudulent documents, and effectively clears the person for travel without any human intervention.

The Innovation Checkpoint is the only one in the US to have four automated screening lanes, all of which are integrated with tomography X-ray scanners. This enables the uninterrupted movement of carry on baggage, and could see us saying goodbye to unpacking of laptops and liquids. It also automates the movement of bins from the back to the front of the checkpoint.

Las Vegas Innovation Checkpoint
Advanced scanning reduces the need to unpack bags. Photo: FTE

Those bins are sure to be returned to the head of the queue clean and safe, thanks to a UVC light sanitization system used to neutralize bacteria and viruses, including COVID.

For the passengers themselves, the Innovation Checkpoint uses an eAIT body scanner – flat panel scanners that use millimeter wave technology instead of X-rays to screen travelers for threats. It allows for screening without having to place hands above heads, and should reduce the number of manual pat downs required.

Las Vegas Innovation Checkpoint
The entire project is designed to accelerate the uptake of gamechanging technology to improve the travel experience. Photo: TSA

In the future, the airport plans to test out additional technologies including Credential Authentication Technology-2b (CAT-2b), AutoCAT, and Dynamic Screening.

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Guided tour as part of FTE

As the host of this year’s international Future Travel Experience Global Conference, Las Vegas McCarran will be showcasing its Innovation Checkpoint, also know as the TSA Advancing the Checkpoint Environment (ACE) initiative, to attendees at the show. On Tuesday, December 7th, registered delegates will enjoy a unique look at the checkpoint and some of the technologies currently on test.

The TSA Innovation Task Force will lead guided tours and deliver a briefing to showcase the latest iteration of the future checkpoint site running at LAS, which is trialing new machines, and new approaches, to gather data and feedback on whether the technology is something TSA wants to use at airports nationwide. It will also share its future plans around the evolution of security processes.

Las Vegas Innovation Checkpoint
Tours will take place during next week’s FTE conference. Photo: FTE

As well as this, attendees to the Future Travel Experience will be able to hear from TSA executives and many other industry leaders including Star Alliance, Oman Airports, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Japan Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Lufthansa and Port of Seattle during the ‘Future Airports’ track of the conference.

Running alongside this, FTE will feature tracks covering Air Mobility X, Digital and Innovation and Ancillary, as well as an extensive exhibition of all things future travel. If you haven’t booked your ticket yet, head on over to Future Travel Experience to find out more and secure your place.