Last updated: 12:30 PM ET, Thu May 26 2016

Atlanta Testing New Automated Security Lanes

Airlines & Airports | Delta Air Lines | Josh Lew | May 26, 2016

Atlanta Testing New Automated Security Lanes

Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines has funded the installation of “automated security lanes” at Atlanta-Hartsfield Jackson. These lanes feature larger-than-normal bins and a longer conveyor belt that will allow up to five people to prepare for baggage screening at the same time (rather than the single-file queues that you'll find at most airports). 

Could this help?

The project cost Delta $1 million. Initially, there will be two of these automated lanes, both at ATL’s newly renovated South Checkpoint, which had been closed for several weeks while crews completed the installation. Yesterday, TSA agents had a test run at the checkpoint. Some passengers were allowed to pass through the new lanes so that any bugs or potential problems could be worked out before today’s full opening. 

How will the new lanes improve the security screening process?  

TSA officials think that the new automated bins will decrease screening time by 20 to 30 percent. However, this is considered a pilot project, so there is really no way of knowing if even a 20 percent reduction in wait times is realistic until data has been collected. 

READ MORE: TSA Replaces Head of Security, Creates Incident Command Center

TSA spokesperson Mark Howell said that the agency is hopeful that things will move faster with the new checkpoints because more than one traveler can put their items in the bins at the same time. "You don’t have to wait for that family in front of you to divest, or to get rid of all of those things in a bin.” 

Howell also said that Delta paid for TSA representatives to visit other countries that use the automated system. London Heathrow currently has automated lanes and has experienced some positive results. 

So how does it work?

Bins are 25 percent larger than normal, so they can fit more items including carry-on suitcases. There are five stations in each lane, so five people can fill the bins at the same time. Once filled, each bin is then pushed onto a conveyor belt to go through the x-ray process. 

The most important aspect, besides the multiple “filling stations,” is that each bin has a radio frequency ID chip. This means that you don’t have to wait for your bin to be x-rayed, you can simply continue through the checkpoint and pick it up on the other side. Bags that need to be manually checked are automatically moved to a different conveyor belt.

Also, bins are returned to the front of the lane via another conveyor belt.  

READ MORE: Fighting TSA Delays: How Chicago is Calling In 'Additional Resources'

Probably too late to help this summer

If the lanes prove successful when it comes to lowering wait times, they could be added to other airports around the country. Because it will take time to collect data and then time to install the lanes at other airports, this idea probably will not be developed in time to help reduce wait times during the coming summer travel season. 

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