Artificial Intelligence: A UVC Robot Disinfects 4,000 Sq Ft Food Bank in 30 Minutes

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A new robotic system disinfects surfaces and neutralizes aerosolized forms of the coronavirus in food banks.

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Ava Robotics, and the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) collaborated on a robotic solution to the problem of disinfecting a large area such as a food bank. They designed a robot that used UVC light to exterminate viruses and bacteria on surfaces and aerosols. (World Economic Forum)

Food banks have become critical during the coronavirus pandemic

Millions have lost their jobs after the outbreak of the coronavirus. Food banks are essential to provide them with sustenance and relief.

However, these food banks need disinfection – both for the safety of the consumers of the food stored in these warehouses, as well as the staff working there.

“Food banks provide an essential service to our communities, so it is critical to help keep these operations running,” says Alyssa Pierson, CSAIL research scientist. “Here, there was a unique opportunity to provide additional disinfecting power to their current workflow, and help reduce the risks of Covid-19 exposure.”

Because these food banks often occupy large areas such as warehouses, it became clear that a mechanical solution would be the best option.

A UVC robot

It is scientifically proven that UVC, a kind of short-wavelength ultraviolet light, can kill viruses and bacteria on surfaces and aerosols.

It is a method of sterilization used by hospitals for disinfecting patient rooms. Significantly, it also is effective against airborne pathogens. It can get into hard-to-reach areas after bouncing off other surfaces.

However, UVC light is dangerous for humans’ skin and eyes. Therefore the collaborators chose Ava’s telepresence robot as a means to apply the disinfection across the GBFB warehouse.

The researchers substituted the robot’s telepresence top with a UVC light array.

They then operated the robot around the warehouse so that its artificial intelligence could map the route it would travel for the disinfection application.

As a result, the robot became autonomous for the purpose of its mobility around the warehouse.

The UVC robot can move around in the warehouse, along storage aisles, and past pallets, at approximately 0.22 mph. At a rough estimate, at this speed, it can cover the 4,000 square-foot GBFB warehouse in just half an hour.

It would neutralize roughly 90% of the coronaviruses in this time.

Related Story:  Marty the Robot Hunts for Spills in Supermarket Aisles                                                  

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