DENVER – Denver International Airport participated in a pilot program to test new security screening technology that uses artificial intelligence.
The HEXWAVE System was created by a company called Liberty Defense which describes the system as “millimeter wave, advanced 3D imaging, and AI to detect concealed metallic and non-metallic weapons such as liquid, plastic, and powder explosives, 3D printed guns, and other prohibited items – without having to remove common items like cell phones or keys.”
The technology is being tested at DIA's south employee checkpoint used for airport worker screenings.
“It’s very similar to the millimeter wave imaging machines, the body imagers that people at the checkpoint are used to going through except in this case, you don’t have to stop unless there’s some sort of object that’s been detected that requires further investigation,” Jeff Price, Metropolitan State University of Denver Aviation and Aerospace Science Professor said.
A few months ago, TSA issued a mandate requiring commercial airport operators to conduct additional airport worker screenings.
The Wallstreet Journal reports, the additional screening mandate stems from multiple incidents involving criminal organizations recruiting airport employees with certain security clearances for smuggling activities.
Denver International Airport decided to test the new technology after the mandate was issued.
“Airports already conduct physical inspections on a random basis of airport employees, this would be next level stuff. This is including explosive detection systems, establishing randomized screening checkpoints around the airport,” Price said.
Price said in general, most airport security experts view additional screenings as positive, but there’s an industry-wide debate about who’s responsible for implementing the additional screenings regardless of if new technology is used.
“The challenge is, its being put upon airport operators and airport operators are saying it’s an unfunded mandate since TSA has been clearly established as the screening entity,” Price said.
Price said if airports are permanently responsible for additional employee screenings, passengers could see an increase in prices.
“If airport operators are going to implement this, they’re going to have to hire a lot of security personnel to do it, buy a lot of technology all of that will drive up rates at the airport. It’ll drive up parking rates, concessions, what people are paying for food at the airports because the airports have to pay for these technologies and the personnel somehow. So eventually they might notice it in their wallet,” Price said.
Passenger Chloe Lebbaken said if airports decide to permanently implement the AI security technology, she’s concerned about what this means for jobs.
“That’s just another example of how AI is taking jobs away from people,” Lebakken said.
But Lebakken said in this case she can see the safety benefit benefit.
“Maybe there’s possibly a way to implement humans and AI so we’re not taking away jobs but we’re also keeping things safer for people,” Lebakken said.
Denver7 reached out to DIA and TSA for comment.
TSA said HEXWAVE is an initiative DIA is exploring and referred further questions to DIA.
A spokesperson for DIA said:
This is not a permanent program, but rather a pilot. The use of this technology is in the early testing phase at DEN and therefore we don't have data to share. The adoption of this pilot is part of DEN's continuing focus on exploring new technologies that provide a broad range of threat detection while also making security processes more operationally efficient.