The Transportation Security Administration began testing technology Tuesday designed to detect explosive suicide vests at Penn Station.
The TSA is testing two types of units in partnership with Amtrak. One resembles a white camera on a tall tripod while the other is mounted inside a trunk.
The machines screen people at a distance without slowing them down. Unlike airport screening systems, the equipment projects scanning waves at people rather than having them walk through a scanner.
The machines scan for metallic and non-metallic objects on a person’s body. If a potential threat is detected, it will trigger an alarm on an operator’s laptop.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer has been pushing for the last few months to get the explosives detectors installed in New York transit hubs.
“When I made the push to bring this technology to New York City it was because we need to put it on the fast-track and we need to perfect it, because if it works, this is where we want it,” Schumer said Monday in a news release.
Back in December, authorities said attempted suicide bombing suspect Akayed Ullah tried to blow himself up near the Port Authority station, allegedly using a crudely made pipe bomb attached to his body.
“This technology would have been effective and would have identified the suicide bomber who was at the Port Authority,” the TSA’s Lisa Farbstein told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez. “This specific technology will help us detect any artfully concealed items under clothing that could possibly be an IED, an improvised explosive device, such a suicide vest.”
The TSA has been working on the experimental devices, known as standoff explosive detection units, since 2004 with transit agencies. The technology has also been used to secure large events like the 2014 Super Bowl and was tested by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority in December. It hasn’t been deployed permanently at any transit hub because it’s still under development.
Testing will evaluate the effectiveness at detecting bombs and the frequency of false alarms.