One of the limitations of the disinfection robots being pressed into service in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic is an inability to sanitize large areas. Fetch Robotics Inc. and Build With Robots today announced the launch of the Breezy One robot, which they said is the first system to offer “efficient, hands-free, and safe sanitization specifically designed for large-scale facilities.” It is already being used to clean the Albuquerque International Airport.
Disinfecting multiple surfaces such as door handles, chairs, and tables is a time-consuming task that can expose human workers to pathogens and hazardous chemicals. The Breezy One autonomous mobile robot (AMR) can disinfect 100,000 square feet in 1.5 hours and eliminate 99.9999% of viruses and bacteria, according to the organizations.
San Jose, Calif.-based Fetch Robotics provides AMRs and the Fetch Cloud Robotics Platform for on-demand automated materials handling and inventory management. The company, which was founded in 2014, was named a 2020 RBR50 innovation award winner this week.
Build With Robots (BWR) is an Albuquerque, N.M.-based developer and distributor of industrial robots. Its proprietary robotic systems are used in the logistics, construction, and entertainment industries.
Partners rapidly develop Breezy One AMR
Build With Robots quickly built Breezy One on Fetch Robotics’ mobile platform and cloud software. BWR co-developed the disinfection robot with the city of Albuquerque’s Aviation Department.
“Now more than ever, the top priority for any facility is to ensure the health and safety of employees and customers,” stated Melonee Wise, CEO of Fetch Robotics. “Through our work with the Build with Robots team, we were able to move from product conception to commercial deployment in only three months, a timeline that reflects the urgency of the challenge and the world-class team responsible for the robot itself.”
“Build with Robots saw an immediate opportunity to come to market with a disinfecting robot that was completely different from anything else in the market,” said Barry Phillips, chief marketing officer at Fetch. “They had a unique idea for disinfecting large spaces that was underserved, as other disinfecting robots that used chemical disinfectant can take up to 24 hours for re-entry into the disinfected space.
“Partnering with Fetch enabled Build With Robots to come to market quickly by leveraging Fetch’s mapping, navigation, overhang avoidance, and floor-obstacle avoidance,” he told The Robot Report. “Build With Robots also leverages the FetchCore cloud robotics software, which enables the Build with Robots team to remotely change the robot’s disinfecting paths, schedules, and frequencies as a customer’s needs change.”
Finding a safe spray
A key challenge in designing Breezy One was finding a disinfectant strong enough to kill harmful viruses and bacteria at scale but that would also allow employees and passengers to re-enter a space in a timely manner. Most disinfection robots either do not eliminate pathogens at a sufficient rate or require up to 24 hours before people can safely return, said the companies.
Breezy One’s patented disinfectant was originally developed by Sandia National Laboratories and is one of the strongest and most vetted disinfection agents commercially available, said Fetch. The EPA-registered biological agent has been tested by nine government agencies and more than 10 independent laboratories and meets nationwide hospital disinfection requirements. It is also effective against bacteria, spores, and viruses, including COVID-19, according to Build With Robots and Fetch.
Another challenge for disinfection robots can be dealing with “shadowing” or occluded surfaces, as well as air circulation.
“Breezy One uses a fine particle fog that allows penetration of fabrics as well as gets under and behind surfaces, so shadows are not an issue,” Phllips said. “The fogged disinfectant can also reach high-touch areas where light cannot, such as in between keys on the keyboard and behind doorknobs. The disinfecting fog is dense enough that air circulation is not an issue.”
The disinfectant spray is 1,000 times more effective than most ultraviolet approaches and safer than most chemical solutions, claimed the companies. People can re-enter an affected area within two hours.
New Mexico rollout
Four Breezy One robots began disinfecting the entire Albuquerque airport each night earlier this month. Albuquerque International Sunport is New Mexico’s largest commercial airport, with more service from eight major carriers to more than 20 destinations worldwide and more than 5 million passengers each year.
“As the world’s most effective autonomous disinfection robot, we are excited the Breezy One can be deployed to partners like the Sunport, where it will keep visitors safe while also protecting hard-working employees,” said Kimberly Corbitt, chief commercial officer at Build With Robots.
In addition, Breezy One is designed to augment custodial work. No airport workers have been laid off, and they can spend time on more meaningful work, said the companies.
“The hardest and most rewarding part of developing the robot has been making sure it fits perfectly into the existing workflows at the airport so we make the staff safer and support their work,” Corbitt said. “The options that are presented on the screen of Breezy One enabled the staff of the airport to control operations, as opposed to having a process engineer or automation person control Breezy One from a computer.”
“It takes one person to fill the robot, set up warning signs, and push the button on the screen of Breezy One that sends the robot on its disinfecting path,” she added. “When the disinfection is done for the evening, the staff pushes a button on the screen of the robot to instruct Breezy One to return to its docking station.”
“We are pleased to add Breezy One to our team to help keep the entire Sunport community safe. Our custodial staff is one of the best in the nation, and this is a welcome addition to not only help with our new cleaning and sanitization procedures, but to keep them safe in the process,” stated Nyika Allen, director of aaviation for the City of Albuquerque. “This is one of several measures we’ve put in place to welcome travelers back to the Sunport in a COVID-19 world.”
The Breezy One disinfection robot is available to other facilities. “While the Sunport has been our pilot project, it is considered fully deployed at this point and no longer a ‘trial,'” said BWR‘s Corbitt. “Breezy One can be made available to other facilities almost immediately.”