INNOVATION & TECHNOLOGY

Pittsburgh International Airport to Become first U.S. Airport to Utilize Autonomous Robots with Ultraviolet Light Technology

Pittsburgh International Airport is looking to the region’s vibrant tech community to help incorporate a new disinfecting strategy using ultraviolet light – on robots. 

This partnership with Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Robotics is the first step of an airport-wide strategy to deploy technology solutions and multi-layered cleaning processes to enhance the health and safety of the traveling public. The technology is designed to kill microbes in high-traffic areas, increasing cleanliness and helping to restore confidence in traveling.

PIT is the only airport in the United States with these specially equipped floor-cleaning machines, and airport officials look to incorporate UV disinfecting technology in additional ways, including the sterilizations of handrails on escalators and moving walkways, elevator buttons and other high-touch areas.

“We appreciate the ongoing partnership with Carnegie Robotics, one of the great organizations which calls our region home,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “The Airport Authority is always at the forefront of technologies and, in this case, is using these Carnegie Robotics innovations to protect passengers and staff and enhance the travelers’ experience.”

The pandemic’s impact on the aviation industry has been dramatic, with passenger traffic falling more than 90 percent as social distancing and stay-at-home orders remain in effect. As part of the solution, PIT hopes to speed the industry’s rebound through technology solutions.

“The health and safety of airport staff and the traveling public are always the top priorities,” said Pittsburgh International Airport CEO Christina Cassotis. “We know that restoring confidence in travel is going to be key to the industry recovery. That’s why we’re partnering with world-leading Pittsburgh technology companies to help develop solutions.”

Developed in conjunction with Pittsburgh firm Carnegie Robotics, Nilfisk’s Liberty SC50 Autonomous Scrubber/Dryer is a commercial-grade, fully autonomous, robotic floor-cleaning machine. 

What makes the airport’s system unique is the integration of a UVC fixture that emits intense ultraviolet rays on the floor, sanitizing the surface after the scrubber has cleaned it. Hospitals and laboratories have used ultraviolet light as a disinfectant for years, and now Pittsburgh International Airport and Carnegie Robotics are testing that technology to safely treat public spaces in the U.S. airport sector.

“Carnegie Robotics is thrilled to work with the Allegheny County Airport Authority to rapidly test and develop this technology, which was designed to combat healthcare associated infections (HAIs) such as C. Diff., MRSA and other resistant pathogens in medical facilities,” said Daniel Beaven, Carnegie Robotics CFO. “I can’t overstate the importance of a motivated and competent user-partner to rapidly develop new technology. The Airport Authority has repeatedly demonstrated leadership in this way and we could not be more pleased to be here.”

The airport is currently testing the autonomous scrubbers with Carnegie Robotics in the terminals, and officials expect them to be deployed soon as part of the airport’s daily cleaning routines.

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