Robot Fights COVID-19 with UV-C Light

But it still won’t clean floors.

Chinese hospitals are deploying a new tool to reduce infections: autonomous disinfection robots designed by UVD Robots, a subsidiary of Denmark’s Blue Ocean Robotics.

The robots use ultraviolet light to disinfect and kill viruses and bacteria—reducing exposure risks for hospital staff. The robots emit concentrated UV-C light as they navigate a room—removing 99.99 per cent of airborne viruses and bacteria from the room’s surfaces. The radiation distorts their genetic material, rendering them incapable of creating copies of themselves.  

The robot disinfects all contact surfaces, stopping at predetermined focus spots that require longer exposure and repositioning itself close to surfaces to effectively eliminate any shadows where infectious organisms could avoid the ultraviolet light.

While it hasn’t been determined if UV-C light can kill COVID-19, it does have that potential, having been proven effective against other coronaviruses such as SARS. However, UV-C light is extremely harmful to humans–it can cause a severe sunburn within seconds. The WHO doesn’t recommend using ultraviolet lamps to sterilize hands.    

The robot is easy to use and can be operated by hospital cleaning staff. “In half an hour, you can set up points in a room, map a corridor, and set up the charging station,” said Per Juul Nielsen, CEO of UVD Robotics. “Then, you just have to push a button to tell it to go to a room.”

Hospital staff activate the robot via an app, then run the machine through a security checklist before it disinfects the room—a process that only takes about 10 minutes. The robot then notifies the staff it has completed its task and transmits a report of the cleanup. Finally, the robot maneuvers back to its charger autonomously.

A demo of the UVD Disinfection Robot.

The robot comes equipped with safety measures to protect humans from radiation, including a tablet that functions as a motion sensor, automatically switching off the UV-C light when someone wants to enter the room.

The company already sees potential for the robot beyond hospital rooms—in places such as hotel rooms, offices and security-check stations in airports. “Not only can the robot work in small spaces, like hospital rooms and ship cabins, but it can also work in larger areas,” said Nielsen. “Our robot is the only autonomous, battery-powered one available; others are just light sources on wheels.”

The robots will be installed in hospitals across China. UVD Robotics is also conducting trial installations in some Florida hospitals and is building a network of suppliers to enter the U.S. market—potentially helping save lives in a country that is facing its own coronavirus crisis.

Read more about how robotics are helping the fight against the coronavirus at CloudMinds Donates 5G Cloud Robots to Fight Coronavirus.