A Germ Free Airport? How this Robot is Helping at PIT

Pittsburgh International is the first airport in the U.S. to try ultraviolet cleaning by robots.


Robotic floor scrubbers are nothing new, you can even order them online. In the age of COVID-19, Pittsburgh International Airport was looking for something more to keep its terminals clean and germ-free. Partnering with Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Robotics, the airport deployed a pair of self-driving floor scrubbers that use ultraviolet lights to kill germs in high-traffic areas.

“Passengers don’t just want to see a clean airport — they want to know it’s clean and they want to know it’s safe,” says Katherine Karolick, senior vice president of information technology for Pittsburgh International Airport. “Ultraviolet robots have been used in hospitals as a way to disinfect and kill microorganisms, so it is definitely something that makes sense for an airport.”

Cleaning an area with as much foot traffic as an airport terminal is a challenge.

“An airport, as a particular application space, is very representative of a lot of public spaces: high traffic, big open areas, reflective surfaces, a lot of safety concerns,” says Carnegie Robotics chief financial officer Daniel Beaven. “Our no. 1 priority in this testing, however, is to understand how effective the addition of UVC is as a disinfectant in combination with Nilfisk’s scrubber.”

Nilfisk is the Danish firm that produced the original model of the scrubbers. They begin by hitting the floor with 88 pounds-per-square-inch of water pressure. A chemical disinfectant can also be added and then the UV rays pass over the surface. Researchers will then test the floor for any remaining microorganisms.

The airport says the partnership with Carnegie Robotics is part of an airport-wide strategy to deploy technology solutions and a multi-layered cleaning processes to protect passengers and airport employees.

“Pittsburgh is a center for robotics and artificial intelligence,” Karolick says. “Any time we can tap into the talent of the region, it’s a win for us.”

You can read more about this technology here and watch how the robot works here.

Categories: The 412