Full Body Scanners at Airports

June 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel News & Tips

This is a topic that’s drawing a lot of attention and it’s something to consider if you’re going to be doing a lot of air travel because there’s a good chance you’ll face the possibility of going through a full body scanner before boarding an airplane. These scanners are becoming more commonly used at airports as a security measure. While concerns have been raised about them violating privacy, many travelers prefer being scanned than to undergo a pat-down before boarding. When body scanners are in use, air travelers can feel assured of their safety while traveling by air.

Many people are concerned about what exactly the scans show, and who sees them. Here is an explanation of how full body scanners work, and the different types you may encounter.

First of all, the scanning systems allow a screening officer to see whether a traveler is carrying dangerous items. This is done in an effort to keep other travelers safe. The scanners produce a three-dimensional outline of the naked body. However, the faces of those being scanned are obscured and images are viewed in a secure room or remote location. Depending on what type of scanner is used, a varying amount of detail of a person’s body will be revealed.

Whichever type of scanner is used, when you are being scanned, you will stand still with your arms above your head. The scanner will do the work, and the scanning officer will observe the results. If you aren’t carrying any hidden objects, you will probably be cleared to board the plane.

One type of body scanner you might see is the millimeter wave machine. This type of scanner looks like a glass phone booth with clear glass walls and scanning panels that move around the person being scanned. The images produced by this type of scanner reveal the most body detail. However, it uses software that will blur your face, so your privacy is protected in that way.

This particular machine works by emitting small radio waves. The waves pass through your clothing and present images of the skin underneath. It can take up to 40 seconds to complete a scan. This machine also has a zoom option.

Another type of body scanner is the Backscatter scanner. When you are being scanned by this type of machine, you basically stand between two large boxes with your hands raised. It reveals a skeletal image and the face is obscured.

This machine works by taking two low-level x-rays of you. They are not strong enough for radiation to be a concern. It takes 20 seconds to complete this type of scan. If you aren’t concealing any weapons or other items, the electromagnetic rays will be absorbed. However, if you’re wearing any foreign objects, they will reflect the rays and be visible during the scan.

Full body scanners are becoming more common at airports, and you will likely encounter them if you travel by air. Most airports are currently offering them as an optional screening method.  In these instances, alternative screenings are available in the form of metal detectors and pat downs by an officer of the same sex.  While full body scanners can be viewed as an inconvenience, they’re in use for your protection and safety.

Presented by:
Sima Kimble


3 Responses to “Full Body Scanners at Airports”
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