McCarran Airport Employs RFID in New International Section

The largest installation of Gen2 radio frequency identification (RFID) technology can be found in the baggage tracking system of the newly opened international section of Terminal 3 at McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas. In 2004 the decision to implement this type of tracking system made McCarran one of the first airports to use RFID technology airport-wide. An RFID chip is incorporated into each bag tag produced for all of the airlines and it emits a unique signature which sensors detect to locate the tagged object.

Standard bar-code-read bag tags, if misread, can result in bags being hand-sorted. RFID tags are said to be 99% accurate, enabling an airport to more easily organize baggage loading, locate misplaced baggage and check the status of certain baggage.

Design and installation of the new baggage handling system for Terminal 3 began in 2008. Vanderlande Industries was awarded this $92 million baggage handling system which includes 30,000 feet of conveyor, more than 10,000 feet of catwalk, 73 high speed diverters, 32 carousels, 20 Vertisorters, and 55 over belt RFID readers. The initial deployment has 16 in-line screening machines with installed availability for up to 20 machines.

For in the inbound control system, Vanderlande used its own baggage handling software, VIBES, for routing, tracking and tracing, and gathering and visualizing process information. For the outbound control system the software vendor worked with Alliant Technologies.

“The project presented many challenges due to its large scale and wide spread use of 2nd generation RFID technology,” said Ian Horrigan, project manager at Vanderlande. “The system itself was vigorously tested for many months, processing over 500,000 test bags to ensure a smooth transition to live operations on June 27th as scheduled.”

The domestic section of Terminal 3 opened on July 31 with the entire project to wrap up by the middle of August.

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