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Perfecting the Pat Down

TSA is enlisting smart mannequin to improve TSA pat-down procedures at airports.


Another dreaded rite of passage when flying these days is airport security. The long lines, the shoe removal, the inability to bring a simple water bottle with you behind a security check point—all annoyances that we the public have had to get used to.

What’s less easy to stomach are the now routine TSA pat downs. I know it’s an added and likely, necessary security check, but an awkward moment for both the passenger and the TSA agent. The agents, in particular, have to balance between as non-intrusive as possible, which leaves at risk of missing something, or patting down too vigorously, which would upset the passenger. To help TSA walk the line, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate is working with the TSA on a smart mannequin that will serve as teaching guide for the ultimate pat down.

The Pat-Down Accuracy Training Tool (PATT), developed in both male and female body types, will be stocked with sensors capable of measuring the amount of pressure applied to various areas of the mannequin during a typical procedure, according to a notice put out by the agencies. The female PATT has 2,000 sensors, the male version, only 1,900. The sensors will communicate the pressure measurements to software, which will analyze the results and serve up a visual training guide and objective feedback to TSA employees as part of their training.

The goal: Increasing awareness of pat-down procedures for agents and helping them zero in on the right technique.

Here’s hoping PATT can provide a soft touch to security checks.

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