Pilot Program Aims To Speed Up ID Authentications At Airports

ARLINGTON, VA — Some travelers going through security checkpoints at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) may have a quicker time thanks to a new touchless “self-service” technology that aims to speed up the ID authentication process.

The Transportation Security Administration is piloting the technology that matches a traveler’s live photo with the image on their identification, confirming their flight information in near real time.

“In light of COVID-19, advanced health and safety precautions have become a top priority and part of the new normal for TSA,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske, in a release. “As a result, we are exploring rapid testing and deployment of this touchless, self-service technology. At the conclusion of the pilot, we expect to be able to determine how positioning the new technology will allow passengers to use it themselves thereby providing a safer checkpoint experience, while adding significant security benefits.”

The pilot program at DCA follows an earlier 30-day test of the credential authentication technology with a camera last September at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada. That test used volunteer TSA PreCheck™ passengers. TSA took what it learned from that test and refined the technology. The DCA pilot will also use volunteer TSA PreCheck travelers, who usually have the shortest wait times and least physical contact while passing through TSA checkpoints.

At DCA, volunteer passengers will approach the device and insert their ID into the scanner. Rather than have a TSA officer verify their identity, the device will take a photo of the passenger and use it to match their ID. Photos taken by the device are only used for authentication purposes and are not saved.

The credential authentication technology units are able to authenticate several thousand types of IDs including:

  • U.S. driver’s licenses and photo IDs issued by state motor vehicle departments
  • U.S. passports/Permanent resident cards or visas
  • U.S. military common access cards/Retired and Uniformed service military ID cards
  • Department of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler ID cards

Signs will be in place at the airport with instructions on how to participate or decline to participate in the pilot program. Participants may fill out a brief survey via a QR code to provide feedback on their experience using the device.

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