From US airports to Japanese stations, high-tech robots are being employed to sanitise surfaces in a battle against the spread of Covid-19. Sam Ballard reports

In Japan, the East Japan Railway Co has unveiled autonomous disinfection and mobility robots at its recently opened in Takanawa Gateway Station in Tokyo.

The Clinabo CL02 droid uses three dimensional cameras to avoid obstacles as it sanitises handrails and other touch points around the Tokyo hub.

The company has also revealed other robots that will carry luggage, food and drinks through the station. By March 2025, there will be personal mobility vehicles for transporting people – all of which should be running.

In the US, Pittsburgh International airport has become the first hub in the country to introduce ultraviolet cleaning robots. The units, which look like industrial floor scrubbers, operate autonomously, emitting light that will help kill bacteria in high traffic areas around airport.

The scrubbers scour the floor surface with 88 pounds per square inch of water pressure. Chemical disinfectant can be added to the process for a deeper clean, and the UV rays then pass over, creating three different levels of cleaning for the surface.

“Passengers don’t just want to see a clean airport — they want to know it’s clean and they want to know it’s safe,” Katherine Karolick, senior vice-president of Information Technology for Pittsburgh International airport, says.

“Ultraviolet robots have been used in hospitals as a way to disinfect and kill microorganisms, so it is definitely something that makes sense for an airport.”

The units were originally built by Nilfisk, a Danish firm, but were modified by Carnegie Robotics, a Pittsburgh-based company.

Daniel Beaven. Carnegie Robotics chief financial officer, says: “An airport, as a particular application space, is very representative of a lot of public spaces: high traffic, big open areas, reflective surfaces, a lot of safety concerns.

“It’s a great challenge for us. Our number-one 1 priority in this testing, however, is to understand how effective the addition of UVC is as a disinfectant in combination with Nilfisk’s scrubber.”

They are not the only robots being utilised for cleaning airports. As previously reported in Globetrender, Doha airport has its own team of cleaning robots scouring the terminal building.

In the UK, London Heathrow airport, the country’s biggest international hub, is rolling out an army of nighttime UV cleaning robots (pictured top) to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission when travelling.

Whether it’s hotel room beds or seats at an airport, the cleaning regimes of hospitality companies has never been so closely scrutinised. And, with so much at risk, it’s little wonder.

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