Air passengers will no longer have to take liquids and laptops out of their carry-on bags under new rules coming into force for UK airports to upgrade their security scanners.
Similar to CT scanners used in hospitals, the new technology will provide a detailed picture of a bag’s contents and allow images to be visually rotated and dissected.
Heathrow has already invested millions in the equipment and the government will now force all other UK airports to change their systems by December 2022.
The upgrades should mean the end of the 100ml limit on liquids, with passengers no longer required to use plastic bags for their toiletries and cosmetics.
Ministers are advising travellers to continue to separate liquids and electronics for now as the new technology will not be introduced straight away.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the upgrades will mean “no more intrusive pulling out your socks and your underwear, having to separate all your liquids and take your laptop out, all that can just stay in the bag and be able to go through”.
Airport bosses estimate the scanners will mean passengers clearing security 50 to 60 times faster than is currently the case.
The technology will also improve on-board security by accurately detecting suspicious items.
Heathrow airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “We can detect what liquid is inside a bottle, we can look inside a laptop and see whether it has any dangerous devices inside it, and that allows us to have a much higher level of security on the plane.”
Experts estimate the new equipment is around five to 10 times more expensive than current high-end X-ray scanners.
The government is not setting aside any funding for the changes and airports are expected to foot the bill.
A number of airports around the world, such as Amsterdam Schiphol and Chicago O’Hare, already use the technology.
Norman Shanks, visiting professor in aviation security at Coventry University, said the UK was “catching up at last”.
He added: “The technology is something developed in the 1990s for checked baggage screening and has been used for the last decade plus.”