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Robotic carts boost ergonomics and safety for TSA officers

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Written by: Alberto Brioso
Baggage check-in area
Baggage check-in area

In summer, 2018, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened nearly 165 million pieces of checked baggage.[1] Some were flagged for additional scrutiny. TSA officers would then lift and drag the often-heavy luggage to inspection tables.

The repetitive lifting and twisting motions subjected TSA officers to potential back injuries. Fortunately, mobile inspection tables now offer an approved, ergonomically-superior option for completing a repetitive yet essential process.

An automation solution

Mobile inspection tables were first installed at North Terminal locations in Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) in 2016. Additional inspection tables were then deployed at additional DTW locations.[2]

At the DTW locations, baggage flagged for further inspection automatically transfers from a conveyor onto a self-propelled cart. The cart follows a thin track of magnetic tape that leads to a resolution room. There, a TSA officer inspects the bag while it remains on the cart tabletop. After the inspection, the cart again follows a magnetic tape pathway and returns the bag to the conveyor.

The technology

The carts are self-propelled. The magnetic tape they follow can be pulled up and replaced whenever facilities change. Nothing else needs to be done to the floor or to power supplies. Most recharging occurs as programmed, after hours. Carts also can charge briefly when they stop for payload inspection.

Mobile inspection tables contribute to workplace safety as well as ergonomics. Each cart has a laser sensor which averts collisions with people or displaced objects. Their battery power eliminates the need for cords, which might otherwise be tripping hazards.

Looking ahead

The TSA makes automated carts an option for any airport which determines their operational value. Daifukuku Co., the manufacturer of the DTW installation, has reported installation of its Mobile Inspection Table in eight U.S. baggage systems.[3] Locations include Dallas Love Field (DAL)[4] and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE).[5]

[1] (September 2018)
[2] (March-April 2017)
[3] (October 2017)
[4] WFAA, ABC Television, Dallas, TX (April 2018)
[5] (November 2017)