The travel industry was one among those worst affected by the pandemic and the sector has been trying various paths to restore passenger confidence, in line with these efforts, a robot armed with virus-killing ultraviolet (UV) light is being tested on Swiss airplanes.
UVeya, a Swiss start-up, is currently 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.
The device is yet to obtain approval from aircraft makers and the impact of the UV light may have on interior upholstery, which could fade after many disinfections are being studied, UVeya co-founder Jodoc Elmiger said.
“This is a proven technology, it’s been used for over 50 years in hospitals and laboratories, it’s very efficient. It doesn’t leave any trace or residue,” Mr. Elmiger showed his hope on the efficacy of the device and it could reduce people’s fear of flying.
So far, the UVeya team has developed three prototypes and one of which was 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 Embraer’s aisle. One robot can disinfect a single-aisled plane in 13 minutes, from start to finish, though larger planes take longer.
The executives of Dnata hope that airplane makers will sign off on the robots, while Mr. Elmiger estimates they will sell the robot for about $15,930, as governments require new measures to ensure air travelers don’t get sick.
“We were looking for a sustainable, and also environmentally friendly solution, to cope with those requests,” said Lukas Gyger, Dnata’s chief operating officer in Switzerland.
While privately owned Helvetic has not needed bailouts like much of the industry, its business has also been gutted, with its fleet sitting largely silently in hangars. UVeya’s UV robots may help change that, said Mehdi Guenin, a Helvetic spokesman.