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Dubai-based Group Trials Robots Using UV Light to Zap Viruses on Planes

Dubai-based Group Trials Robots Using UV Light to Zap Viruses on Planes

Saturday, 3 April, 2021 - 04:45
A worker sprays disinfectant inside a Delta airplane at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, between flights to kill any coronavirus left on surfaces.  Getty Images/AFP

A robot armed with virus-killing ultraviolet light is being tested on Swiss airplanes in yet a new idea aiming to restore passenger confidence and spare the travel industry more pandemic pain.

UVeya, a Swiss start-up, is conducting the trials of the robots with Dubai-based airport services company Dnata inside Embraer jets from Helvetic Airways, a charter airline owned by Swiss billionaire Martin Ebner, according to Reuters.

Aircraft makers still must certify the devices and are studying the impact their UV light may have on interior upholstery, which could fade after many disinfections, UVeya co-founder Jodoc Elmiger said.

Still, he's hopeful robot cleaners could reduce people's fear of flying, even as COVID-19 circulates. Elmiger's team has built three prototypes so far, one of which he demonstrated inside a Helvetic jet at the Zurich Airport, where traffic plunged 75 percent last year.

The robot's lights, mounted on a crucifix-shaped frame, cast everything in a soft-blue glow as it slowly moved up the airplane's aisle.

One robot can disinfect a single-aisle plane in 13 minutes, start to finish, though larger planes take longer.

Elmiger estimates they'll sell for 15,000 Swiss francs ($15,930) or so -- as governments require new measures to ensure air travelers don't get sick.

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