The novel coronavirus crisis has led to a sharp increase in interest in disinfection and cleaning robots, with new models being announced weekly. However, only a few organizations can claim to have been working on such robots before the pandemic and have clinically proven, commercial devices available at scale. UVD Robots ApS last week announced the third generation of its UV-C disinfection robot, which it said has a smaller footprint and can report on its activities to human supervisors.
Odense, Denmark-based UVD Robots is a subsidiary of “venture factory” Blue Ocean Robotics ApS, which last month raised close to $20 million in funding and completed its acquisition of the assets of telepresence firm Suitable Technologies Inc. Blue Ocean is also a 2020 RBR50 innovation award winner.
“We have deployed a large number of UVD Robots in countries such as China, Italy, and the U.S. to help them fight the spread of the COVID-19 infection,” stated Claus Risager, CEO of Blue Ocean and chairman of the board of UVD Robots. “Our telepresence robots from GoBe Robots are used to enable humans to physically meet and move around virtually despite closed borders, quarantine, hospitalization, or other restrictions.”
UV-C robots already in use around the world
Unlike many disinfection robot makers, UVD Robots said it has been working on autonomous ultraviolet robots since 2015. The COVID-19 pandemic led to high demand from operators of hospitals, airports, hotels, shopping malls, food and pharmaceuticals companies, cruise ships, office complexes, and more, according to the company.
Blue Ocean originally developed the UV-C robots to to fight hospital acquired infections (HAIs) among patients and healthcare professionals. Millions of patients get HAIs each year, and many of these patients die as a direct result.
The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has increased interest in automating preventive measures, said the company. Worldwide, there are more than 30,000 hospitals, and studies show that at least 10% of those infected with COVID-19 in one of the U.S., one of the countries hit hardest, are healthcare professionals.
UVD Robots reported that its sales have grown steadily this year. “The largest share of the robots that UVD Robots delivers are to the healthcare sector,” said Per Juul Nielsen, CEO of UVD Robots. “Others are supplied to a very wide range of industries that want to use modern technology to effectively protect guests, students, travelers, and others that stay in potentially contaminated areas.”
“We are also seeing a large order intake from shopping centers, pharmaceuticals and life science, and commercial airports, among others,” he noted, adding that there are 17,000 airports worldwide.
Third-generation model based on feedback
UVD Robots added that its distributors are meeting demand more than 60 countries and that its third-generation UV-C robot builds on market feedback. The robot now includes features that were deployed in an early release at many customer sites around the world, said UVD Robots. The company said the new UV-C model demonstrates that the future of autonomous UV robots will be driven more by software and advanced sensors than by hardware alone.
“We have designed the world’s most advanced UV robot, which is also the world’s simplest to use,” said Nielsen. “Anyone can install the robot in a matter of minutes and immediately put it into operation, disinfecting bacteria and viruses from the air and any surface.”
The third-generation UV-C robot is designed to navigate and operate in narrow environments, which opens up new market opportunities, such as the autonomous disinfection of small hotel rooms. Despite the significantly smaller footprint, the new robot boasts exactly the same disinfection strength, said UVD Robots.
“The more agile robots are, the more useful they can be in automating disinfection,” Nielsen said.
“The robot has an unrivaled safety system that uses four layers of safety, enabling the robot to move around in all kinds of environments — even in highly trafficked areas — as it shuts down if people get too close,” said Risager. “It has a unique capability to sense, document, and show the users how well disinfected an area is, enabling the user to easily and quickly adjust the process and optimize the quality if needed.”
“[This is] a feature not found in any other UV-C disinfection robot in the world,” he added. “All of these unique features are patented.”
Disinfection robots proliferate
The market for disinfection robots has become crowded, with UV light, chemical sprays, and combination devices emerging. Just this month, Aero HygenX, Bejing Huiwen Science & Technology, and BlueBotics announced disinfection robots. They joined Corvus Robotics, Thoro.ai, Xenex Disinfection Services, Omron Asia Pacific and Techmetics, and many others. And these are just the autonomous mobile robots.
Despite some doubts over whether aerial drones can effectively disinfect large areas, Perpetual Motion has launched such a service. Other companies, such Clearpath Robotics, are developing robots to treat outdoor spaces.
In addition to the commercial products and academic research, the public sector is understandably interested in applying robotics to fighting COVID-19. The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute, a public-private consortium, recently announced the funding of nine projects to help U.S. resilience.