Robots armed with virus-killing UV light could be the cabin cleaning crews of the future

Apr 1, 2021

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Robots armed with ultraviolet light that can kill 99% of bacteria and pathogens, including coronavirus, are being tested on planes as a potential tool to restore passenger confidence.

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A robot that uses ultraviolet light to kill viruses is being tested on Swiss airplanes. (Photo by dnata)

Related: We got an inside look at how Delta is cleaning planes

The robot cleaners come from the smartly-named Swiss startup Uveya and incorporates much of the same technology hospitals use. The high-tech cabin cleaning service uses environmentally-friendly UV-C rays – no chemicals — to sanitize the air and all surfaces inside an airplane. The robot has lights mounted on a crucifix-shaped frame which provide a soft-blue glow as it moves up the aisle. The entire disinfection process reportedly takes just 13 minutes for single-aisle planes. Larger planes will likely take more time to complete the sanitary sweep.

Enhanced cabin cleaning service was trialled on board the aircraft of Swiss regional carrier Helvetic Airways. (Photo courtesy dnata)

Related: Traveling soon? Here’s how to get a COVID-19 test

The new technology was recently tried out on a regional Swiss carrier Helvetic Airways plane in Switzerland. René Marmet, Chief Operating Officer of Helvetic Airways, said,  “By making available our infrastructure and fleet for testing, Helvetic Airways is significantly contributing to the development of a promising and innovative aircraft disinfection solution which aims to make air travel safer going forward.”

Aircraft companies still have to certify the robots, and it’s still unclear what impact the UV light could have on a plane’s interior upholstery. But a company official is confident its three prototype robots will clear the trials with flying colors. “We believe this collaboration will help assure aircraft are clean, safe and up to the high-level standards of this industry,” said Uveya’s Business Development Manager, Tristan Chevignard.

Related: How airlines are working to keep it clean

If they can speed up the turnaround time, it could make the automated technology an enticing option for airlines. More important, the robots could be the answer for airlines looking to reassure travelers it’s safe to fly without the fear of catching COVID-19. 

Featured image courtesy of dnata.

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