The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is looking to improve its airport screening technology – and its use of machine learning within that technology – in an effort to make the process easier and faster for travelers while enhancing security effectiveness.

In a targeted broad agency announcement posted to beta.SAM.gov, TSA said it’s aware that the removal of shoes and outwear increases passenger wait time. Additionally, when an individual triggers an alarm, a pat-down is required, which TSA acknowledged may make individuals uncomfortable.

The agency hopes to identify technology to alleviate these concerns for travelers and speed up the security checkpoint process.

“TSA must ensure that its security screening checkpoints are both effective and efficient. The critical aspect of checkpoint screening is making sure that all individuals seeking entry to the airport sterile area are screened for person-borne threats to aviation,” the document reads. The agency said it is “continuously evaluating and modernizing the on-person screening processes to strengthen the agency’s ability to respond to shifting adversarial threats, detect emerging and evolving threats concealed on-person, and enable efficient and effective targeting of screening resources.”

The agency is looking for new screening technology in six target areas:

  • Enhanced detection performance and throughput, such as developing or improving machine learning algorithms;
  • Footwear screening that doesn’t require the removal of shoes;
  • Material discrimination capabilities, to better identify metallic or at-risk objects;
  • Improved data visualization for security officers;
  • Synthetic data creation, to supplement real data for the training and testing of machine learning algorithms; and
  • New countermeasure systems and processes for checkpoint systems, processes, and designs.

Currently, TSA uses advanced imaging technology units and walk-through metal detectors to complete its screening process. However, the agency hopes new technology can “enhance the operational efficiency and security effectiveness of on-person screening.”

TSA will accept questions until May 20, and paper submissions are due June 23.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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