Airport security scanners are some of the most high-tech machines you’re likely to encounter regularly. They’re designed to protect from security and terror threats almost every day and therefore are stacked with some of the most advanced x-ray and personal imaging technology available. Airport scanners can see almost anything a passenger has on their person.

There are many different types of scanners you’re going to encounter when passing through airport security. Scanners for your bags, scanners for your body, and scanners for individual searches. Each of these scanners is equipped with the latest tech designed to detect contraband, drugs, and anything else that should be brought on an airplane.

But what about pills? We’ve all heard stories from Hollywood and in literature of drug dealers bringing cases full of pills through security and smuggling them on a flight. But how plausible is that scenario? Let’s take a look at the many different scanners you’re likely to encounter to see whether or not an airport scanner can detect pills and other drugs.

Baggage Scanners

The first type of scanner you’re going to encounter when traveling is the baggage scanner. This is the one where you have to put your suitcase on a conveyor belt, remove your shoes and belts, and take out any electronics to be scanned. The way this scanner function is by taking x-ray images of the bags and electronics passing through.

The images can detect anything within the case and can see each individual part passing through. If you store pills in the contents of a laptop, the x-ray scanner will be able to spot them. Even if you’ve wrapped the pills in a blanket inside the suitcase, they’ll still be detected and spotted by airport security.

Full-Body Scanners

There are a few different types of full-body scanners, but the information provided about pill spotting will be largely the same. You’ll either encounter Backscatter x-ray scanners or millimeter-wave scanners. Backscatter scanners take a much more detailed image of the body which allows security to see anything and everything the person has on with them.

Those types of scanners are largely phased out due to privacy complaints from passengers. In their stead, we’ve found millimeter-wave scanners to be much more effective. Neither scanner can detect drugs by themselves, but the images they provide make it much easier to spot pills and drugs brought along.

Ability to Detect Drugs

So as we can see, the airport scanners are designed to provide an image of the person, not necessarily sense specific items being brought along. Airport security scanners are designed to detect metal objects which helps pinpoint certain weapons and contraband, but not drugs. Most drugs brought along cannot be automatically detected by an airport scanner.

But why are they so easy to spot? Well, as mentioned, the airport scanner makes spotting drugs incredibly easy. With the advanced imaging technology offered by modern airport security scanners, drugs are almost impossible NOT to see. Unless you’re willing to swallow the drugs or shove them somewhere – not recommended – the pills will likely be seen by the airport scanners.