Steamboat Springs A new machine being unveiled Wednesday at Yampa Valley Regional Airport aims to increase security while protecting the privacy of passengers.
The full-body scanner is similar to ones found at major airports across the country, including Denver International Airport.
“This technology safely screens passengers for metallic and nonmetallic threats, including explosives, without physical contact,” Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Carrie Harmon wrote in an email Tuesday.
The technology has been controversial because the machines captured a revealing full-body scan that was viewed by security officers in a separate area. Passengers not comfortable with the full-body scanning were given the option of pat-downs, but some argued that those, too, were intrusive.
In September, the TSA implemented a software upgrade to its new and existing machines in an effort to quell privacy concerns.
“The software enhances privacy by eliminating passenger-specific images and using a generic, computer-generated outline of a person that is identical for all passengers,” Harmon wrote.
She said the machines scan passengers by bouncing harmless electromagnetic waves off the body.
“The energy emitted is 1,000 times less than international limits and guidelines,” Harmon wrote.
Existing X-ray machines at YVRA still will be used to screen carry-on bags. Existing metal detectors used for passenger screening will remain at YVRA’s security checkpoint to be used during busy periods.
“Passengers will first be directed to the imaging technology unit,” Harmon wrote. “Those who opt out will receive equivalent screening, including a pat-down.”
The TSA announced in January that YVRA and the Colorado Springs Airport would be two of 25 airports receiving the new machines. The Advanced Imaging Technology, or AIT units, cost about $150,000.
“Many factors are taken into consideration before AIT units are deployed, including airport readiness and checkpoint infrastructure,” the TSA stated in a news release.
The TSA began using the AIT units in January 2010. There are 630 units at more than 150 airports nationwide. TSA’s 2011 budget called for buying 500 units. Another 275 units are planned for this year.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com