C.T Phone home: Is Computed Tomography from another planet?

Billy Shallow by Billy Shallow | Dec 5, 2019

Computed Tomography machines, more commonly known as CT machines, are a fairly new concept to passenger and hand baggage screening at airports globally. Due to their unique capabilities, they are rapidly being rolled out at airports to improve the overall checkpoint experience. CT machines have been used in Hold Baggage Screening for a number of years and now their transition to the checkpoint is a promising step for both the airport and the passenger.

The benefits of CT screening

  • Security –  CT machines create a 3-dimensional image which can be interpreted in different ways by a screener making it easier to identify threats or prohibited items. The machines have advanced algorithms which automatically detect explosives improving the security of the air transport system.
  • Customer experience – Due to advanced algorithms, liquids and/or laptops are no longer required to be taken out of passengers’ bags, depending on the airport’s operational decision. This creates less of a hassle for each passenger and is a positive step towards a seamless passenger flow.
  • Operational efficiency – As laptops and liquids do not need to be taken out, each passenger will typically need less space in the trays for their belongings. This translates into operational efficiency for airports as they won’t have to screen as many X-ray images, which should boost their throughput figures.

Implementing CT at airports

Many airports are trialling CT machines but some countries such as the US, Netherlands, Australia, and the UK are actually mandating the use of the machines.

Melbourne Airport has been rolling out CT scanners over the last 6 months. With this implementation the airport has been able to:

  • Improve security effectiveness
  • Improve overall passenger satisfaction
  • Achieve sustainable and higher throughput levels

CT machines bring a notably large change to carry-on baggage screening. Airports need to do a few things in order to ensure the implementation of CT is seamless and reaps the intended benefits:

  • People: Staff require more training with new machines and 3D imaging.
  • Process: Clearly defined processes need to be defined in order to ensure the technology works the way it is intended.
  • Systems – The systems have different physical characteristics and their installation differs from traditional X-rays.

To support airports implementing CT machines, ACI’s Smart Security programme has released an Implementation Guide covering the whole cycle from procurement to implementation.

Smart Security Guidance Documents
Access now

With a doubling of passengers expected by 2037, there is a need to implement improved innovative technology for better security, operational efficiency, and the customer experience. There is no one size fits all to security innovation, however. Airports should always introduce measures that make the most operational and business sense for their particular situation, in cooperation with their authorities and stakeholders.


Billy Shallow

Billy Shallow

Director, Innovation and Technology
Billy joined ACI World in March 2019 to lead the Smart Security programme. His role focuses on developing and advocating the future vision of passenger and baggage screening for airports. Billy has over 8 years of aviation experience, including five years leading London City Airport’s security improvement programme, as well as international consulting assignments.
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