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Transportation Technology

Laser Scanner May Allow Passengers To Take Bottled Drinks On Planes Again 343

Posted by timothy
from the why-haven't-they-banned-belts-and-shoelaces? dept.
cylonlover writes "Besides having to remove our shoes, the volume limitations regarding liquids and gels in carry-on baggage has become a major hassle in the world of post 9-11 airport security. Hopefully, however, we may soon be able to once again bring our big bottles of water and tubes of toothpaste aboard airliners in our overnight bags. Britain's Cobalt Light Systems has developed a scanner called the INSIGHT100, that uses laser light to assess the liquid contents of containers, even if those containers are opaque."
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Laser Scanner May Allow Passengers To Take Bottled Drinks On Planes Again

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  • Unsafe Bottles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:46AM (#39031685)

    Shouldn't we all be really terrified of the massive pile of super dangerous drinks bottles we have to pass on the way through security?

    • by SJHillman (1966756) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:00AM (#39031845)

      It's ok. The TSA agents will be divying those up and taking them home later.

    • by MrLint (519792) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:29AM (#39032221) Journal

      Totally ignoring the garbage cans full of presumed explosives at checkpoints?

    • TSA Theives (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dareth (47614) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @11:41AM (#39033203)

      My wife got some kind of spa lotion set while on vacation and forgot to put it in her checked bag. Security told her to give it to them or she would miss her flight. She handed it over only to be told she had already missed her flight. She asked for it back so she could ship it home but they wouldn't give it back.

    • Re:Unsafe Bottles (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Wilf_Brim (919371) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @12:37PM (#39033957)
      This has been pointed out before, and I'm glad you are bringing it up. If these are being taken away because they are presumed explosive and/or hazardous chemicals, shouldn't they be treated as such? At the very least they should be handled as hazardous liquids (like solvents, acids, and the like). Of course, the problem there is that which class of hazardous liquids due you treat them as. Volitile organics (like gasoline, acetone, etc)? Maybe strong acids? Or strong bases? This is, of course, the meat of the matter. In the United States we do not have security. We have security theater. The bottles they are taking away are only props, not the real thing, so they no more have to handle the "explosives" confiscated as you have to handle the fake bomb you made for your high school play as a real IED.
  • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:49AM (#39031707) Homepage

    How about we just let people take liquids on planes again? You know, without the stupid scanner?

    BTW, it clearly doesn't work on toothpaste or any other metal container.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:51AM (#39031737)

      Because nobody siphons off any taxpayer money that way?

    • by Gideon Wells (1412675) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:52AM (#39031747)

      The genie is out of the bottle and people are too scared now. I'm waiting for the day that someone suggests flying requires passengers to be put to sleep through anesthetics and shipped in cubes, not mean it to be a Thomas Swift Modest Proposal type suggestion.

      • by devent (1627873) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:03AM (#39031903) Homepage
        Actually, that would be nice. Of course if the anesthetics would be side-effect free. Kind like the cruisers from The Fifth Element. You checkin, go to sleep, wake up at your destination. A 24 hour flight would be just a nice dream for you.
        • by Dunbal (464142) * on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:09AM (#39031973)

          Except for the 0.1% of passengers who develop fulminant hepatitis due to an allergic reaction to the halothane, and the other couple percent of passengers who die for all sorts of other reasons because of underlying health problems they did or didn't know about.

          Anaesthesia is not to be dicked around with. Sincerely - a doc.

          • by EdIII (1114411)

            Anesthesia is not the only a problem Just like you said. What about people that have severe (*severe*) cases of chronic sleep apnia? They might not die, but they sure as hell won't feel very good when they get there. More like a hang over.

            Sincerely - A CPAP user. 100% of the time.

        • by Muad'Dave (255648)

          'The Fifth Element'-esque sleepy-time travel chambers didn't seem to be anesthetic-based to me; they seemed more electronic. The flight attendant flipped a switch and Corbin Dallas dropped like a poled Ox.

      • by jythie (914043)
        You kidding? That would be awesome! If someone started offering a service where you were knocked out at boarding and woke up at your destination I would so use it!

        But yeah, people are scared of the bad reporting surrounding the original 'liquid bomb' hoax, and too much has been invested as treating it like it was an actual threat... so now they need a new bit of theater to deal with the inconvenience that was created.
      • Assuming that by "Thomas Swift" you meant Jonathan Swift, sedation flight has already been depicted in the film The Fifth Element.
      • by Anrego (830717) *

        If they could figure out a way to do that which wouldn't have severe health reprocussions.. I'd be all for that.

        Also, I don't think it's not so much a fear issue as a political risk issue. If they start letting people take liquids on the plane.. and someone actually _does_ blow up a plane with something they brought on board in, that politicians career is over. Politically it's pretty damn risky to undo these kind of decisions for this reason.

        • by Anrego (830717) *

          I don't think it's not so much

          Augh.. *face palm*

          • by Anrego (830717) *

            Also..

            * brought on board in <some liquid container>, that

            I know this is my fault for not looking at the preview, but come on.. how hard would it be to check if the stuff between the < and > looks valid and warn if not (or just auto correct). They have to be checking anyway because it's filtering to a small set of acceptable tags!

        • by Dan667 (564390) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:23AM (#39032133)
          what if a terrorist blows up the huge line where people wait to be groped by the tsa?
          • by Anrego (830717) * on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:27AM (#39032179)

            Then the politician expresses his sadness over the incident and announces (probably to much applause) plans to make airport security even tighter.

            But if they stopped the TSA groping and this happened.. they'd be calling for the head of the guy who made that decision!

            We are talking politics here, not logic.

            • by StikyPad (445176)

              We need fewer logical magicians in politics and more logicians. It's easier to get a bill passed than to get a paper in Nature. There's something fundamentally wrong with that, and it's not Nature's standards.

          • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:33AM (#39032281)

            what if a terrorist blows up the huge line where people wait to be groped by the tsa?

            Then they install another TSA checkpoint outside the airport to protect the one inside.

            • by xclr8r (658786) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @11:12AM (#39032815)
              They kind of did this at the Russian airport last year sans the groping. My wife was awestruck that they had flights going again in a few hours. I just said take a look at those Putin the adventurer pics - that's how they role.

              Despite the explosion quickly filling the terminal with smoke and the airport being evacuated, miraculously Domodedovo has now reopened for service for flights just a few hours after the terrorist attack. Russian news outlet RT.com reports that flights for this evening are departing on time.

              citation (with poor taste in a title): USA Today Story [usatoday.com]

              Pics of Putin [google.com]

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              what if a terrorist blows up the huge line where people wait to be groped by the tsa?

              Then they install another TSA checkpoint outside the airport to protect the one inside.

              Yeah. Like one outside your house. With document checks and "off with the shoes" and "Are you going to the airport? Oh, going to work? Don't worry, this will only take two or three hours."

              "We don't want to hold you up, sir. So just let us install surveillance equipment throughout your house so we can make sure you aren't making explosives or taking them out of your house. Then the daily searches will only take half an hour. Oh, and if you don't mind, please keep an extra bottle of lube around just in

        • Sadly, that's exactly why it's so hard to get rid of "security" items even if they don't provide any actual security. "What if someone, at some point, does something that this would have stopped? I don't want to be remembered as the person who took away the security that would have stopped a terrorist from killing fifty people! I'd rather inconvenience ten thousand people unnecessarily than allow one terrorist to slip through and ruin my political career!"

          Fear of a boogeyman scenario + possible political

        • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

          If they start letting people take liquids on the plane.. and someone actually _does_ blow up a plane with something they brought on board

          Umm, planes are usually, not always, but usually, blown up by something they brought on board.

          • by Anrego (830717) *

            There was supposed to be a <some liquid container> in there.. but slashdot took my words :(

    • by QuasiSteve (2042606) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:53AM (#39031765)

      and why would we allow that, when a thirsty passenger...
      1. Has to buy a bottle of drink after clearing the security checkpoint.
      2. Has to buy another one on arrival at the connecting airport.
      3. Has to buy yet another one on arrival at the destination airport.

      And that's just the drinks - don't forget about all the awesome 3floz bottle variants of ointments, creams, moisturizers, sanitizers, etc. etc. that now litter some (airport) stores.

      Allowing people to take their own packaged fluids onto planes again will just cut into this very profitable market.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by wvmarle (1070040)

        Most airports provide drinking water fountains (if the tap water isn't drinkable straight away, like in many countries in Europe).

        You're also allowed to bring bottles.

        Cross checkpoint, fill bottle with water to drink later. Approach checkpoint? Empty bottle. Dump it in a toilet, or just in a garbage bin or so (they usually have plastic bag so shouldn't leak - and if it would, that's not your problem for having to conform to stupid rules).

        • You're also allowed to bring bottles.

          Really? I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to in the UK. Of course, once you're through security, you can buy a new one at ridiculous prices and take THAT onto the plane (presumably first dispensing all your miniature bottles of liquid explosive into it).

          • by pheonix7117 (1439515) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:30AM (#39032237)

            Err I flew to and from the UK this January and I had my trusty plastic water bottle with me the entire way, emptied right before security of course.

            • Hmm, interesting. The large bins full of (mostly empty) bottles right before security control would seem to suggest I'm not alone in believing otherwise.
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by CSMoran (1577071)
                Or maybe, just maybe, people don't want their plastic bottles anymore after having drunk the water they couldn't take it with them.
          • Of course, once you're through security, you can buy a new one at ridiculous prices and take THAT onto the plane

            That might vary from airport to airport - but at least at Phoenix Sky Harbor, I couldn't. I bought a drink at one of the 'News' stands and both the person at the til and the greeter at the waiting area informed me that I couldn't take it on board. At the waiting area was another large bin filled with (half) empty bottles, similar to that at the checkpoints.

            That things vary should be pretty clear

          • by wvmarle (1070040)

            I said bottle. Not bottle with water in it. Just bottle. I've routinely taken empty bottles with me - the restrictions are on liquids, and I didn't try to bring liquids.

        • by jank1887 (815982)

          I've been taking an empty bottle through security for years. Almost every airport has potted plants before security. water one. shake out the bottle really well. or have it empty and dry when you leave for the airport. then fill it at the water fountain once you're through. I did see a notice once that really wet things will get flagged, so dry the bottle as well as you can.

      • by Dunbal (464142) *
        When I was young we used to drink tap water from the communal water fountain and you know people didn't always die from it. I don't understand the obsession with paying $5 for a bottle of water you have to carry around everywhere.
        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          When I was young we used to dig a hole to collect runoff in the spring, then drink that for the rest of the year. We didn't die. In fact, when travelling in tropical countries when everyone else thinks they really are dying, I'm the wise guy selling off his unused Immodium stock.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        "Has to buy another one on arrival at the connecting airport."

        I've never understood that. Civilized airports are smart enough to route connecting passengers so they stay in the security cleared area. Do some airports just like to make the lines for security as long as possible?

        • At Philadelphia International Airport, international connecting flight passengers have to pick up their luggage and then pretty much drop it off again.

          I don't know why that is - perhaps to allow passengers access to their luggage if the connecting flight is several hours away.

          However, because you are allowed to put fluids in your regular luggage (not carry-on), it means that at that time you can get your fluids out of there and into your carry-on.. hence the second screening... and the need to buy another d

        • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:38AM (#39032361) Homepage

          If you're arrive on an international flight and is connecting on a domestic flight here in Norway, you must pick up your luggage, carry it through the customs area and check in again. They've considered a simpler way but the problem is once the passenger has his luggage he can take out items he's not allowed to carry on him so he's no longer cleared. Doing customs clearance without the passenger is hopeless, how can he for example go through the red zone? And customs check at final destination has the problem that he can just swap luggage with an accomplice on the domestic flight, including the luggage tags.

    • The real benefit of this new device, is thousands of sales to TSA and profits for the undoubtedly politically well-connected company that manufactures them.
    • by MrLint (519792)

      When I flew thru narita, they put bottles on what I can only assume was an ultrasonic densitometer. This isnt rocket surgery ppl.

  • Since you have to remove each liquid container and individually place it in the scanner does not make this practical.
    Also the system is only good for patterns it detects so some compound is going to mess it up.
  • Laser Scanner (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    >Laser Scanner May Allow Passengers To Take Bottled Drinks On Planes Again

    Presumably it was the laser scanner that prevented this in the first place, right?

  • I think this is good, for it will ease up the burden of passengers not having to listen to small infants who will otherwise be happier with a comforting bottle then with a pacifier. I don't know exactly how difficult flying has become for families with infants, but this certainly may be a good relief for them.

    Yet, while I think that this is good for some reasons, it's once again massive $ spent on the false illusion of feeling safe in the air.

    • Re:Good and yet... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wvmarle (1070040) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:08AM (#39031961)

      There are exceptions for families with small children. They may bring milk and other drinks for the child (and yes that's of course a major security leak but who cares, it's theater anyway and the show must go on). Exact quantities I don't know but something like "a reasonable quantity for the trip".

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Docasman (870959)
        The last time I traveled with small children we had to drink from the bottle in front of the officers... they considered it a "proof" that it was edible. They said nothing of the high-power laser in my backpack.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Families still take bottles on board. You can get dry formula that you add water to, and the crew is happy to heat it up for you.

    • Re:Good and yet... (Score:5, Informative)

      by JimWise (1804930) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:22AM (#39032129)

      Breast milk and baby formula [tsa.gov] were always exempt from the TSA 3oz limitations. Originally the passenger bringing them on board had to taste it to prove it was safe (not sure how that would deter a suicide bomber), but even that requirement was later dropped.

  • by SniperJoe (1984152) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:56AM (#39031803)
    Can they develop a laser scanner to find my dignity again? While I hail these suggested improvements, the fact remains that these piecemeal changes are a smokescreen to the larger issue of the legality and effectiveness of our current airport security scheme.
  • more waste (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Taibhsear (1286214) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:57AM (#39031807)

    Oh great, more crap the airports have to buy, which increases ticket prices, for zero increased safety. Super.

  • And all it will just be another $100 Million for each airport. Airports are truly become the most high-tech places in the world. If you have some obscure security technology, just go to the next airport, they will buy it. I think 1000 years from now archeologist will think that air travel was the most dangerous travel form of this century because they will find the most invasive and most high-tech security technology ever implemented (despite the fact it is in fact the most save form of travel).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:01AM (#39031853)

    If "they" want to blow up a plane they will find a way to do it. The focus should be on "why" they want to blow up the plane. Maybe we should stop pissing off people by trying to take over their countries?

    What liquid agent is a terrorist going to use to blow up a plane? Napalm? Or just set the plane on fire?

    • by ScentCone (795499)

      What liquid agent is a terrorist going to use to blow up a plane?

      Are you really that uninformed, after years of coverage of binary liquid explosives, demonstrations of their effectiveness when used correctly, and actual use of them by actual terrorists who actually killed people? You can't possibly be. So, what's your real point?

      • by Uberbah (647458)

        And you have a statistically greater chance of drowning in your bathtub from an accidental fall than dying in a terrorist attack. So, what's your real point?

    • Maybe we should stop pissing off people by trying to take over their countries?

      Yeah, stop to piss off people! Stop hailing the wrong god you insensitive clod!

  • Nice idea, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:02AM (#39031881)

    reportedly has a false alarm rate of less than 0.5 percent

    According to Wiki, 46,514,154 passed through JFK International in 2010. Let's say they're very cautious about the false alarm rate and that it's actually 0.25%: that's still well over 100,000 false alarms per year. From one big airport.

    What do they do then? Call in the bomb squad a couple of hundred times a day or let the passenger on the plane minus their alleged bottle of explosives?

    It might be a good idea as an initial screen where any positives get passed to a more rigorous second layer of screening but this can take time, and bearing in mind it takes about 5 seconds to scan an item with this machine and that people can have three or four things to scan that could make an extra 30 seconds of time to screen each passenger bearing in mind time to get the items in and out of the machine. That might not sound like much but it'll just increase backups even further.

    Besides, I take it "false alarm" means false positive. What about the rate of false negatives? Is it high enough to make it pointless?

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Just do like they used to - if it's a suspicious liquid that's supposed to be drinkable, you take a swig. If not, it doesn't go with you.

  • The mahor hassle are not the liquids but the complete chain of senseless security theater that complicate travel but not bring any security (beyond the false sense of it).

    Adding another snake oil device will not improve things.

    • I think I need to develop the Terrorist Detector 3000. It will just be a plain metallic arch (but a *cool* looking metallic arch). It won't actually beep or have any electronics inside but it will detect terrorist by Advanced Probabilistic Reasoning. Each passenger that passes through has a nearly-zero chance of being a terrorist so it will read negative on them. My device will be 99.9999% accurate! (Perhaps even more accurate than that.) What's more, the Terrorist Detector 3000 will only cost airport

  • by TheGoodNamesWereGone (1844118) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:08AM (#39031963)
    I notice not many people here are saying we should do away with intrusive pat-downs and feel ups altogether. At least here in the US, we used to have something called the 4th Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search & seizure.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by agentgonzo (1026204)

      I notice not many people here are saying we should do away with intrusive pat-downs and feel ups altogether. At least here in the US, we used to have something called the 4th Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search & seizure.

      They security officers do not have the right to search you. If you make the metal detector beep, they still do not have the right to search you. They do, however, have the right to not admit you to the rest of the airport or onto the plane unless you assuage their fears by allowing a pad-down search. If you really take objection to the security at the airports, get in a car, train or ferry. Air travel is by no means the only way to get there.

  • by jythie (914043) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:11AM (#39031991)
    So... we have a fake problem based off what was essentially a hoax, but now the public and TSA are so heavily invested in the myth that when everyone realizes how stupid the policy is, rather then just saying 'ok, start carying liquids', they have to go with some expensive face-saving device so they can maintain the facade that this whole policy was worthless in the first place.

    You know.. I really should have just tried to sell them dowsing rods instead... they are already being sold as bomb detectors [wikipedia.org]... I am sure I could repurpose a couple sticks for detecting combinations of liquids that when mixed will blow up planes. I wonder if I can set them up so they poke the user in the eye in order to indicate a positive.....
  • why am I not surprised this is an expensive machine. The better question is trying to get rich with it? A much cheaper solution is to get rid of the tsa as they are not effective.
  • See what all that higher security allows to do. Maybe one day we'll even be able to take with us alcohol and toothpaste and more, and still be more secure than ever before.
    Isn't that swell, guys?

    Note to the humour impaired: This is extreme sarcasm!!!

  • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:19AM (#39032095)

    You pack up your carry-on bag and show up at the airport. As you go through the security line you have to unpack everything. All liquids and gels have to be placed on one conveyer belt. Electronic devices are placed on another. Your belt, shoes, hat, jacket, are placed on another. Whatever remains is placed on yet another. If you accidentally put something on the wrong conveyer then you and all your belongings are dragged off to a private room by 3 goons who go through everything with a fine toothed comb, taking so long that you'll undoubtedly miss your flight. Each of those conveyers goes through an assortment of various gizmos that poke, prod, scan, irradiate, zap, spray, and shake all of your possessions.

    If you sort all your belongings properly then you then proceed to one kiosk where you have your retinas and/or fingerprints scanned. Depending on the outcome of that (and probably the whim of a nearby screener) you're shunted to another line where your clothes are swabbed down and tested for lord-knows-what sorts of chemicals. Then it's off to another line to proceed through a nude-o-scope so the screeners can gawk at you. And since the nude-o-scope doesn't actually do what it's purported to do then you're also subjected to a full pat-down. After the final pat down you're interrogated by yet another agent who demands to know where you're traveling, who you're traveling with, why you think you should be allowed on board an airplane, etc.

    After about 30 minutes of "processing" you're allowed to retrieve roughly 85% of your belongings (half of which are damaged or completely destroyed from the "screening" process) from a huge bin where all those conveyers dump everything into one huge pile.

    Oh yeah, and if you're not smiling sincerely throughout the entire process then you're also subjected to a full body cavity search and then ejected from the airport no matter what the outcome of the search.

  • by WCMI92 (592436) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:21AM (#39032121) Homepage

    I won't go anywhere I can't drive to in my own vehicle. I won't stand for strip searching, irradiation and groping by government thugs.

    And how many terrorists have the TSA ever stopped? The answer: ZERO.

    The TSA is all about harassment in the name of the APPEARANCE of security. They will strip search a nun while allowing muslims (who were responsible for 9/11) through without a second look. Because of this, because of political correctness, if anything planes are LESS SAFE today than on 9/10.

  • Because of this paranoia I can not import plastic modeling paints, adhesives or anything that is liquid. And detail, I'm not talking about cans of 500ml or 1000ml, I speak of "mini cans" that are usually 10ml at most.
  • Oh crap, it's April already. Dammit...

  • Idiotic rule (Score:5, Informative)

    by orzetto (545509) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:34AM (#39032293)

    I was already convinced this rule about liquids was bogus and mostly aimed at increasing the sales of beverages in airports, but a few months back I had a shock at just how stupid the system is.

    I was taking a plane (international within Scandinavia) and I had noticed a bit late I had a very short time from landing to the departure of the train I wanted to get on. I had only a small piece of luggage, which I usually check in for convenience, so to cut the baggage claim I decide to carry it on the plane instead. Of course at the security checkpoint they notice there are a bunch of liquids inside (toothpaste, shampoo and the like), and I decide I'd rather buy them back upon arrival.

    Funny thing, they take the 120 ml toothpaste tube, but leave a 500 ml bottle of liquid for contact lenses. I ask whether it is because it is almost empty (I thought the prohibition was based on containers, which is the case), but that was not it.

    In fact I found out that there is an exception to the 100 ml rule: medical supplies, which apparently includes liquid for contact lenses (no, no special liquid; your average, run-of-the-mill, over-the-counter liquid for soft contacts; no prescription whatsoever). Security personnel did not perform any test whatsoever on the contents of the bottle (which was of a brand unavailable in that country, so they did not even recognise it). They did not even open it! It could have been sulphuric acid for all they knew.

    So, next time you want to bring your soda on the plane, buy a bottle of contact lens liquid, empty it, and refill it with whatever you want.

  • ...FREEEEEEDOM!

  • by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:45AM (#39032479) Homepage

    ... gets to work on his new laser-detonated liquid explosive.

  • by brxndxn (461473) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @10:56AM (#39032625)

    I am almost certain the new 'convenience' that we already used to have but lost will be introduced after a company makes millions introducing some newfangled technology that rips off our government (really.. the taxpayers). It works like this:

    Step 1: Add major inconvenience due to 'security'
    Step 2: Consult with private consultants (read.. former government officials) on how to get rid of new inconvenience and make a ton of money
    Step 3: Purchase new unproven technology for all airports with taxpayer dollars and make 'private industry' friends rich

    This is how it worked with the backscatter machines and this is how it will work with the new 'laser scanners.'

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