MIT’s CSAIL collaborated with Ava Robotics, an association known for building telepresence robots — and the Greater Boston Food Bank to produce an automated machine equipped with UVC to sanitize surfaces and get rid of aerosols that can be contaminated with coronavirus.
This project started in early April 2020, and one of the experts working on it said that it came upon as an attempt to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. The conclusion had been positive enough for the experts to say that this type of technology is possible to apply in different environments like factories, supermarkets, or even crowded restaurants.
The most common form of Covid-19 transmission is via aerosols, and it has the capability to stay active on surfaces for a few days. With the news of a new strain, supermarkets and schools have been scrambling for a solution to sanitize effectively.
While standard household disinfecting solutions can minimize the escalation of the virus, a robot equipped with advanced technology such as UV is more capable of rapidly and precisely disinfecting large areas that can be considered essential – like warehouses or local groceries.
UVC light has long been proven to be effective in eliminating living pathogens on surfaces. The robot was designed to be autonomous, and function without human interaction since direct exposure to UVC light can be unsafe for humans.
The team of researchers communicated with the robot via teleoperation to instruct it on how to navigate a warehouse by installing predefined waypoints. They said that it is currently probing to use the machine’s sensors to acclimate to the possible changes in the environment.
The goal is to provide the robot the capability of acclimating to different environments in the outside world by adjusting its UVC dosage depending on various situations.
The UVC light installed on the top of the machine beams short-wavelength UVC light that eliminates pathogens by agitating their DNA. This method is used in medical settings to sanitize rooms and mitigate the escalation of microorganisms.
Despite the team focusing on one robot situated in a food bank as of now, they said that they are delving into the possibility of multiple automated machines in the future.