The Department for Transport (UK) announced this week that CT scanning technology will be phased in at UK airports over the next two years, according to the legislation they released on December 15, 2022. CT Scanning technology was already being tested in the UK, but the wide-spread implementation was paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

2024 is the goal year by which most UK airports will install the new 3D scanners. These scanners will allow security staff to see baggage in greater detail. Because of the increased visibility, many of the rules in place will be removed, such as taking large electronics out of cabin baggage and the 100ml liquid limit.

The Department for Transport said, “The new deadline follows several trials conducted at some airports since 2018, which have demonstrated the effectiveness of this new screening equipment – which uses CT X-ray technology to essentially provide a 3D image of what’s in passengers’ bags, as well as deploying highly advanced threat detection algorithms. It will further enhance our airports’ ability to detect prohibited items but with greater convenience for passengers.” (Source: UK GOV News/DOT News)

These scanners worry many in the film community. Already in place in the US, the CT scanners are stated to harm undeveloped film, even under 800 ISO films. Kodak Alaris warned photographers of the damage that this technology can do to unprocessed film, as reported by DPReview in 2020 after the TSA in the U.S. announced the installation of this technology in 145 airports across the country.

Travelers carrying film can ask airport staff for a hand check, however this is not as easily done as said. Many film shooters have experienced airport security staff refusing to hand check film at UK airports, on the basis that the current scanners do not harm film below 800 ISO. Some airports have placed signs in the queue letting travelers know that film under 800 ISO will not be harmed by the 2D (non CT) scanners.

Having traveled from the US to the UK through Logan Airport in Boston this autumn 2022, which has deployed the CT scanner technology already, I can say that the airport security staff agreed to hand check a large bag of my film without any fuss. I also left my lead lined film carry bag in my carryon which did go through the scanners, but was flagged for hand inspection as the security staff told me the scanners could not “see” through it.

Bag of film hand checked by TSA in Boston, Logan Airport

Bag of film hand checked by TSA in Boston, Logan Airport

Led lined bags made for carrying film through scanners are available to purchase on Amazon or shops that sell travel accessories for film shooters. Photographers can also get labels, such as the ones made by Kodak here, for film to let airport staff know that it can be harmed by the scanners.

This is promising that we will still be able to travel safely with film from countries installing this technology, however it depends on the airport security staff training. Hopefully if the new scanners are installed in most airports around the UK, the training that comes along with it will reinforce hand checks for all film.

Thanks to Francis Fitzgerald for the tipoff and voicing concerns about the new scanners from personal travel experiences.

Read more of the DOT’s announcement here.

Featured image credit to Bibhash ( Banerjee (Pexels).

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