The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is unveiling new full-body scanning machines at airports in Des Moines and the Quad Cities. The technology is already in place at the Eppley Airfield in Omaha and they’re scheduled to be installed soon at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids.

Jay Brainard, T.S.A. Federal Security Director for Iowa, says the Advanced Imaging Technology units are designed to protect passengers’ privacy while improving security and speeding up the checkpoint process. “This technology safely screens passengers for both metallic and nonmetallic threats, including weapons and explosives, without physical contact,” Brainard said at a news conference today at the Des Moines Airport.

Two of the machines were activated today in Des Moines. Brainard said the scanners enhance privacy by eliminating “passenger-specific” images. Instead, the software develops a computer generated outline of a person which is identical for all passengers.

“This new generation software detects potential threats and indicates their location, eliminating the need for passenger-specific images and streamlining the checkpoint screening process,” Brainard said. The glass framed machines utilize radio waves and take about three seconds to scan each passenger.

“This machine uses millimeter wave technology, which bounces harmless, electromagnetic waves off the human body to create a black and white image,” Brainard said. “It is safe and the energy emitted is 1,000 times less than international limits and guidelines.”

Outside the machine, a monitor displays a human form. The monitor turns green and reads “OK” if the passenger isn’t carrying any prohibited or dangerous items. If an item is detected, a yellow mark appears on the outline of the body showing exactly where the item can be found. Passengers who aren’t convinced of the claims about the machine’s privacy or safety do have an alternative.

“Passengers who do not wish to go through the unit will receive an equivalent screening, which will include a pat down,” Brainard said. There are currently more than 570 Advanced Imaging Technology units installed in 130 airports around the country, according to the TSA.