Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will debut facial recognition technology in November that will let all departing international travelers board flights without any paper or digital documents, according to the Metropolitan Washington Airports ...
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will debut facial recognition technology in November that will let all departing international travelers board flights without any paper or digital documents, according to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, is overseeing the process of implementing this new biometric technology at airports across the country in accordance with a congressional mandate. Biometrics refers to ways to use computer recognition of body measurements to verify a person's identity.
Five years ago, CBP launched the Global Entry Program, which allows pre-approved, low-risk U.S. travlers to go through expedited security screening once they return home. Global Entry allows U.S. citizens returning from foreign trips to deplane following the flight and bypass customs officers by going through kiosks for approval to re-enter the country.
The next step being introduced at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will take passengers out of kiosk lines and get them walking through facial recognition checkpoints.
So far, 15 major airports, including Washington Dulles International Airport, have begun testing facial screening of passengers arriving in the U.S., while another 14 airports use the same facial comparison technology on passengers leaving the U.S.
Each participating airport must develop its own facial recognition technology, then CBP will administer its implementation.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority's Office of Technology created the system, known as veriScan, that will be used at Reagan. MWAA President and CEO Jack Potter said the veriScan system uses battery-powered, Wi-Fi and cellular-connected portable tablets as the device passengers walk up to, which he said is cheaper than systems used at other airports and requires less training.
“In addition to helping meet the congressional mandate, we hope this technology becomes a useful and cost-effective tool for airports and airlines that process the growing number of travelers entering and leaving the United States," Potter said.
CBP uses airline manifest information to pull existing photos from government databases, such as passport and visa images. It creates a photo gallery of the people it expects to depart or return on a flight.
When travelers leave Reagan, they will pass through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints as usual then proceed to the gate. Once the plane begins boarding, each passenger will walk up to the desk where he or she would normally scan a paper or digital boarding pass.
Instead, the passenger will stand a foot in front of the scanner and have his or her picture taken. That image will immediately be checked against the images CBP has on file for passengers expected to board that flight and the person will be allowed to continue or blocked, at which an airline official will intervene. The entire process takes just a few seconds.
“CBP and our airport and airlines partners are redefining travel by using biometric technology to add convenience, efficiency and security to international arrivals and departures,” CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said in a statement. “We have a great partner in Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, whose forward-leaning approach to utilizing CBP’s verification system will enable international travelers ... to experience a frictionless boarding process before the end of the year.”
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