Airport Scanners: What They Can Really See? Exposed (2023) (2023)

As a new traveler, you need to be aware of the security screening process when you travel for the first time. You should know what airport scanners can see. Do they see just the outlines of your stuff, or can they look into the details?

In this article, I will be discussing everything you need to know about airport scanners, from what they’re, and how they work to what items they can detect and much more.

So without further ado, Let’s get started (:

Airport Scanners: What They Can Really See? Exposed (2023) (1)

Airport Baggage Scanners (Explained)

An airport baggage scanner is a machine used to check the safety of luggage and other items. These scanners use X-rays or other imaging technology to take pictures of what’s inside passengers’ bags and packages for the security staff to be able to spot possible threats or items that aren’t allowed.

Besides airports, security scanners are also often used in many other places like transportation hubs, government buildings, and other high-security places.

Some airport baggage scanners have extra features, like the ability to look for explosives or biological threats.

Security at airports has always been focused on making sure everyone is safe. So, airports have used baggage scanners for several years to discover anything that could put lives in danger, like a weapon that could be used to take over an airplane.

Do Checked Bags Get Scanned?

All the passengers checked bags must be scanned after they check in and send down the conveyor belt, they will be scanned by an X-Ray machine and often also by machines that can smell chemicals.

Things that might be also checked are clothes and personal items, toiletries, electronics, books, souvenirs, non-perishable foods, and much more.

Do Checked Bags Get Searched?

Security officers may conduct physical inspections on checked bags if they spot any suspicious items during the airport scanning process.

Sometimes, they’ll only ask you a few questions regarding what items they spotted and let you proceed with the rest of the process required before your flight departure.

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How Does A Baggage Scanner Machine Work?

In short baggage scanner machines found at airports use electromagnetic radiation, specifically X-rays to create images of what’s inside a bag or package without the need for manual inspection.

The scanner’s image displays various items found inside the bag or package, including clothing, food, metals, and dangerous weapons. The image is created by analyzing the levels of X-ray absorption of the various items inside the bag.

Metals and other materials with high densities absorb more rays, resulting in a brighter appearance on the captured image. Conversely, materials with low densities absorb only a small number of rays, causing them to appear dark in the image.

Trained security personnel are responsible for viewing the images produced by the scanner. Their role is to interpret the images and determine if further action, such as additional screening, is necessary.

What Can Airport Baggage Scanners See?

Baggage scanners can produce detailed images of your luggage’s contents. They can detect metallic and non-metallic objects, including a wide range of organic materials.

This implies that you may be caught if you attempt to smuggle prohibited food items into your suitcases.

Whether the pills are stored in plastic, non-metallic, or metallic bottles, airport baggage scanners can see through all types of packaging. These scanners can detect any pills you may carry, whether in liquid form or not.

Full Body Scanners At Airports (Explained)

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Airport body scanners are specifically designed to detect potential threats to flight safety.

Can airport body scanners see detailed images of your body or internal organs? Are they capable of detecting tumors and medical issues? Is it necessary to be concerned about privacy when going through an airport body scanner?

Let’s dive in and answer those questions in a bit more detail.

How Do Airport Body Scanners Work?

There are two types of Airport body scanners: x-ray backscatter scanners and millimeter wave scanners. Backscatter X-ray scanners use a low dose of X-rays to create an outline of your body that shows any objects on your skin. Millimetre wave scanners send harmless waves over your body to create a 3D outline that shows if there’s something hidden under your clothes.

These two scans help the airport security officer see if you carry any hidden items that can be dangerous. Please note that your images are usually only seen by security staff and are not kept for privacy reasons.

What Do TSA Airport Body Scanners See?

Even though the TSA Airport body scanners make you feel like your privacy is being invaded, They actually can’t see anything but your body’s shape. Body scanners can detect metal or non-metal objects hidden under clothes or in bags. The TSA airport scanner can find food, jewelry, make-up, keys, hair ties, and wipes.

The millimeter wave scanner is the most common scanner used in the majority of airports. Using a specialized electromagnetic wave, it can detect concealed weapons, such as knives and guns, plastic explosives, and drugs.

These scanners aim to eliminate the need for a pat-down, a physical search of a person for hidden items like weapons or illegal drugs, and to find any unusual things that a security officer might miss.

Can You Avoid A Full Body Scan At The Airport?

Yes, it is legal for anyone going through a TSA checkpoint to avoid the full body scan for any reason. However, you’ll need to go through a full body pat down instead or sign up for TSA precheck line which includes going through a metal detector.

The full body pat down is a manual check by a TSA agent, regardless of the traveler’s gender, to ensure that the traveler isn’t bringing anything illegal onto the plane. Some pat-downs happen in public places, but you are free to ask that they should search for you in a private room. Once the process is done, you can go on your way.

Even though full-body scanners may be okay for some people, they are not for others, that’s why I mentioned the other options so you can choose the one that fits you and you think is good for your situation and well-being.

Are Airport Body Scanners Safe?

Even though it’s a little scary to think about electromagnetic waves going through your body, airport body scanners are very safe for all travelers.

Likewise, I should also tell you that standing next to one of these machines is safe while you are pregnant. Whether you are a passenger or work in airport security, you or your unborn child are not at a higher risk.

The body scanner can see through a traveler’s clothes but can’t see through their skin. So, because the X-rays from an airport scanner aren’t powerful, they can’t hurt your skin or an unborn baby.

You can refuse to go through a full-body scanner if you are worried about your safety or uncomfortable with it. But airport security will only let you board a plane once they’ve searched you.

A thorough hand search in a private room is an alternative to a scanner. You might be asked to loosen or remove some of your clothes, and the check takes much longer than walking through a scanner.


What Items will be detected by the Airport Scanners?

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Passing through airport security can be a quick and hassle-free experience, contrary to popular belief. If the queues are short and you have prepared beforehand, you can breeze through security quickly.

However, one thing that is certain that will halt your progress is a need for more knowledge regarding what airport scanners detect and the items that must be removed at airport security.

Here are the items that can be easily detected by airport security scanners:

  • Drugs Items
  • Explosives Items
  • Firearms
  • Currencies
  • Electronics
  • Dangerous Materials

1. Drugs Items

The X-ray machines used by the TSA can detect traces of drugs, and other various illegal substances, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and ecstasy pills that may be concealed within luggage, regardless of their depth within the luggage.

2. Explosives Items

In addition to drugs, airport scanners are capable of detecting explosives concealed in luggage through the use of X-ray machines. This machine can pick up metal objects as small as two millimeters in diameter.

You may wonder how this is possible, but Millimeter wave technology has proven highly effective in identifying metal objects easily.

3. Firearms

The scanners used at airports can pick up firearms, including handguns. These scanners create detailed images of passengers’ luggage and person using X-ray and millimeter-wave scanning technologies.

These scanners typically reveal information about an object’s shape and density, allowing security personnel to spot potentially dangerous items like guns and other contraband.

4. Currencies

Additionally, they can detect the money concealed within luggage by utilizing their advanced scanning equipment. The technology is capable of detecting bills as small as $20.

5. Electronics

Please permit me to say most airports have security systems and equipment to detect electronic devices like laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other items.

As a result, the airport security system employs various technologies to screen and detect these items, thereby ensuring the safety of both passengers and the aircraft.

6. Dangerous Materials

Airport scanners are specifically designed to detect various items, including liquids, gels, and other potentially harmful chemicals like bleach, ammonia, acetone, and acid.

When you place your bag through the scanner, security personnel conduct a thorough inspection to identify any prohibited items. Detecting hazardous chemicals could result in additional investigations, delays, and potentially legal consequences.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I know that the system and process of airport scanners are hard to understand, but as a travel beginner, I hope this post has given you a better understanding of how airport scanners work.

That said, you can travel without fear of these scanners and fully enjoy your trip.

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