Los Angeles-based Dimer UVC Innovations, which develops the GermFalcon germ-killing robot aimed at sanitizing airplanes, today offered to provide its services to three U.S. airports to help address an outbreak of a pneumonia-like illness that originated in China.
The coronavirus, which is in the same family as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), has spread to 473 patients in China, and that 17 people have died from the virus. In the U.S., officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed one case of a Washington State resident testing positive for the virus after a trip to China.
Dimer said its GermFalcon robot was specifically created to improve airplane hygiene, using ultraviolet-C (UVC) light to kill viruses, bacteria, and “superbugs on surfaces and in the surrounding air.” The GermFalcon is also designed to navigate an airplane cabin, with strategically placed UVC lamps that can expose all high-touch surfaces to the UVC light.
The company said it will offer the germ-killing system to “contribute to emergency response efforts at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York.
“The threat of coronavirus infecting innocent passengers on an airplane is one we must work to eliminate immediately,” said Elliot Kreitenberg, co-founder of Dimer. “This is a dangerous virus that has already taken lives. GermFlacon is a fast and effective response to this threat, and we are pleased to offer it at no expense to contribute to emergency response efforts at LAX, SFO, and JFK airports during this crisis.”
UVC germ-killing robots in hospitals
UVC disinfection robots are typically seen in healthcare facilities and hospitals, being used to disinfect air, water, and surfaces in rooms and operating rooms. Companies in this space include Tru-D (recently acquired by PDI Healthcare), XENEX Disinfection Services and its LightStrike Robots, and UVD Robots, a spinoff from Denmark’s Blue Ocean Robotics robot incubator. A spokeswoman for UVD Robots said several partners of the company in Asia are collaborating with health authorities in the region to disinfect larger areas in airports, as the robot is too large to be used inside an airplane.
The outbreak in China originated in Wuhan, and centered on a seafood market. The CDC said while originally thought to be spreading from animal-to-person, “there are growing indications that limited person-to-person spread is happening.” But it also noted that it was unclear on how easily the virus is spreading between people.
The CDC said it began implementing public health entry screening at SFO, JFK and LAX airports on Jan. 17, and will add entry health screening at two more airports – Atlanta (ATL) and Chicago (ORD). The agency is providing updates on the outbreak at this site.