AviationPros Special Report: How the Industry is Working to Combat COVID-19

Airport management, aircraft maintenance personnel and ground service providers are increasing disinfection protocols to increase safety and restore the public’s confidence.Jennifer WilberschiedJosh SmithJoe Petrie Aug 13th, 2020

Cleaning crews at Hollywood Burbank Airport wipe down areas during the daytime hours and deploy a sprayer at night to add a an additional level of disinfection.
Jerson Ramirez, DFS site director for Burbank Airport

The COVID-19 pandemic created a host of new challenges for the aviation industry. As airlines struggle to get back on their feet and airports examine their operations, a massive sea change is taking place.

One of the biggest permanent changes we’ll see is a fundamental shift in cleaning services inside the terminal.  

Jeffrey Holaly, key account director for ISS, said cleaning programs traditionally focused on aesthetics, but not the science of disinfection. The pandemic created a need for change that’s likely to persist.

“A lot of airports and airlines wanted the perception that everything was clean, but they didn’t want to necessarily see people cleaning,” he said. “Now we’ve seen a shift to airports and airlines wanting those cleaning folks to be visible at all times and for people to actually see them doing the cleaning work.”

Thomas O’Rourke, director of aviation, North America for ISS, said airport terminal cleaning programs are likely going to evolve into cleaning/disinfecting programs after the pandemic is over. They will implement technology and techniques to not just clean the facilities but kill viruses.

O’Rourke said making cleaning and disinfecting efforts visible will be key in gaining back the public trust in travel. They want to know they’re being protected in the terminal and on the plane.

“Optics is absolutely crucial at this moment,” he said.

Cleaners at Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) are using electrostatic sprayers to provide a deep clean to the terminal.

Allen Dishman, senior director of operations for Diverse Facility Solutions (DFS), which handles cleaning at BUR, said the sprayer allows efficient disinfecting of areas within the terminal by spraying a positively charged 3M C. diff material onto surfaces.

A supplier brought the equipment to the company’s attention, so DFS made the quick decision to add it into service.

“We wanted to bring this equipment on board because now it gives us the ability to spray all touchpoint surfaces that are public facing,” he said. “We want the passenger experience to be a hygienic one.”

A specially trained cleaner is deployed with the sprayer on a nightly basis. They work from the point of entry of the terminal, spray ticking areas, TSA checkpoints, tubs, stanchions and other surfaces where passengers may touch through to the boarding area.

 Traditional disinfecting methods still take place during the day.

“It’s for passenger ease,” Dishman said.  “If we’re spraying and we’re wiping, we’re leaving a surface that’s dry. I can’t necessarily go through and spray kiosks during the day and now they’re wet.”

The sprayers can also help in the event of an immediate COVID-19 infection at the airport. If an employee or a passenger is diagnosed with the virus, the unit can be deployed for immediate disinfection.

“Because the micron is small enough, I’m also able to spray keyboards, gate agent stands and electronics,” Dishman said. “Before it’s a little more of a challenge to disinfect electronics and get the proper dwell time.” 

Holaly said airlines are increasing cleaning and disinfecting efforts after every flight. Their employees are also getting more involved in the process and make it part of their culture.

ISS started a program with Delta Air Lines in January at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) to disinfect areas of the airport. Detroit is one of the airline’s hubs to Asia, so ISS would clean and disinfect any areas following flights from Asia to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  

“It wasn’t really accepted at first to see people walking around in the Tyvek suits, but now it’s quite the opposite,” O’Rourke said.

The new requirements will change the way staff cleans. O’Rourke said there’s extensive training that goes along with utilizing new techniques and technology, so front-line cleaners will need more skills to meet new standards.

“The big challenge is education,” he said. “We have to make sure staff is educated on proper procedures and PPE safety around the whole evolution of cleaning/disinfection.

“The challenge is the mindset, the paradigm shift that it’s not just spraying window cleaner on a widow and wiping it down. There’ a difference between being clean and being disinfected.”

Holaly said electrostatic spraying of disinfectant will likely become the new standard inside all areas of the airport. He also expects airports and airlines to ask for more frequency of disinfection in their contracts.

Expect major change in airport technology as well. O’Rourke said he sees airports implementing more touchless technology and air handling systems bringing in more outside air instead of recycling from inside the terminal. He also expects more UV lighting placed inside air handling ducts to kill bacteria.

“They will have to use a heck of a lot more outside air and a lot less return air,” he said. “It will cost a lot more money to condition the air correctly.”

Holaly said airports need to tell their story about what they’re doing to protect the public. Anything to reduce the number of touchpoints or cleaning will convey the safety being taken to protect the public.

“A lot of it is going to be increasing the frequency of cleaning and communicating that to the public,” he said.

Cincinnati goes automated

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) implemented autonomous robots in April to aid in terminal cleaning. The Avidbots Neo robot was deployed to autonomously clean floors throughout the terminal on a continuous basis to ensure a high-quality, healthy experience for travelers.

Neo is an autonomous floor scrubbing robot. It uses artificial intelligence, cameras and 3D sensors to adapt to its environment and automatically update its route to avoid obstacles. Neo avoids people, suitcases, furniture, displays and other items.

Neo can operate six hours on a single charge. The airport started a pilot program with the robot in November. It cleaned about 200,000 square feet of flooring per week during the pilot.

Faizan Sheikh, CEO and co-founder of Avidbots, said the robot use 3D cameras and lidar to perceive its environment. The company first walks the robot through the facility, then creates cleaning plans for the facility. The operator can choose one of the plans each deployment and the robot will run the course in the least amount of time possible.

One of the robots can clean 80,000 to 120,000 square feet on one charge, depending on the layout of the obstacles present in the facility.  

“We can show you down to 5 centimeters what got cleaned and what got missed and why it got missed down to a very granular level,” he said. “What were the cleaning settings, what was the floor type and you can audit all of that. If you want to make changes it will do that too.” 

The robot is also used at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), Singapore Changi Airport (SIN), Tokyo Narita International Airport (NRT), Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND), Kansai International Airport (KIX), Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL), Ben Gurion Airport (TLC) and Sydney Airport (SYD).

Cobb said he first saw the Neo while on a leadership exchange trip to Changi in July. It was on the heels of a failed attempt at another cleaning robot and knowing Changi’s reputation for quality, it made the unit worth exploring for CVG.

“The impression I saw not only from keeping it clean, but also the customer engagement,” he said. “I saw kids walking close to it and I also saw adults trying to play with it by jumping in front of it.”  

CVG got interested in autonomous cleaning units as driverless vehicles grow in different areas. They wanted a unit that would perform while also meeting employee needs. The Neo was appealing to CVG because it’s self-learning and can adjust its route based on changes inside the layout of the terminal.

Running the units in the middle of the day also includes the optics inside the facility, by showing passengers they’re on top of cleaning issues during a time of an international health crisis.

“The cool thing about this is it can work all day long and it’s constantly learning the environment,” Cobb said. “Very few of them learn on the fly.”

Cobb said CVG has one unit in operation now, but leaders would like to have three, so they would be operating inside all major facilities if money is available in the future. Travelers are engaging with the current unit and shows the public Cincinnati is serious about being a forward-looking airport.

“In the current situation with COVID-19, the world is waking up to the idea that you just have to clean more and more frequently and you can’t do that with people,” Sheikh said. “But the robot you can. It doesn’t get tired.” 

The robots allow Cincinnati to reallocate floor team staff to other areas of critical importance while tackling the COVID-19 health crisis. The airport originally reexamined the housekeeper role at a time when all airports are seeing a labor shortage for what was a low skill job and changing it into a higher skill position. Now it allows them to examine if they can have robots clean and disinfect areas that pose a health risk for humans.

“It’s a simple clean, drop, ingest and dispose of. It keeps the system very simple while at the same time we can have a much higher degree of comfort level that we’re disinfecting to the appropriate amount without jeopardizing the health of workers or the consumer,” he said.

Cobb suggested airports should push a pilot test when picking such a unit. It would allow for a low entry point and will give the vendor a chance to prove the machine will do what is promised. 

Keeping hangars spic-n-span

The first step to ensure a safe and healthy environment for your maintenance crews is to keep your hangar or other maintenance facility as clean as possible. Cleaning is simply the process of removing soils from a surface, opposed to disinfecting, which will destroy and kill microbes such as bacteria and viruses. Regular floor cleaning with an automatic scrubber is a key component to an overall cleaning program. 

“While disinfecting highly-touched areas, such as door knobs, cabinet handles, shared tools, faucets and similar is critical, other surfaces, such as floors, may just need to be cleaned well,” explained Bryan Smith, Sr. Marketing Manager, Americas, Tennant Company. “It is critical to remember you can clean without disinfecting, but you can’t disinfect without cleaning first.”

Keep in mind that generally, it is not recommended to disinfect floors outside of critical areas such as food preparation areas or where bodily fluids may contact the floor. So, a simple sweep and scrub will do the trick when taking care of a maintenance site.

Two industrial cleaning machines that can aid in the cleanliness of floors are sweepers and scrubbers, which help to really scrub deep and keep floors clean. Sweepers remove dry, lose soils and debris, while scrubbers use water and detergent to clean and dry the floor. 

“Sweepers work with a combination of spinning brushes that lift the soil and debris along with a vacuum that pulls the debris into a hopper,” mentioned Smith. “Scrubbers use water with optional floor cleaning chemicals to remove dirt, liquids, grease and other soils. A scrubber sprays a solution on the floor, scrubs with a brush, and then automatically recovers the solution with a trailing vacuum and squeegee leaving the floor nearly dry.”

Both scrubbers and sweepers come in sizes ranging from small walk-behind machines to large riding machines and can be battery or engine powered, depending on the application needs.

Last year, Tennant launched the T7AMR, the company’s first autonomous floor scrubber. “This technology can provide tremendous productivity to your cleaning teams as they are asked to spend more time on disinfecting highly-touched surfaces or other additional tasks,” said Smith.

The frequency of use depends greatly on the types of soil, the amount and type of traffic and the expectations of the facility manager. Tennant recommends facilities to always sweep before scrubbing to ensure that larger debris is removed before scrubbing. Tennant provides equipment that combines these functions into one process known as Sweeper/Scrubbers

Tennant Company has been serving the aviation industry for decades, supplying both civilian and military facilities. Aviation has always been a core market for Tennant equipment and continues to do so during a time when cleanliness is high priority. “We have received many questions about how our products can help prevent the transfer of COVID-19,” explained Smith. “While there is a protocol Tennant has published for disinfecting floors with our equipment, the floor is not always going to be the priority for disinfection. The best way Tennant equipment can help is by enabling cleaning teams to keep the floors clean as efficiently as possible so they have the time to do extra detail work disinfecting the highly-touched surfaces that are more critical to preventing disease transfer.”

Clean aircraft and ground handling facilities

Before the airline industry can recover to pre-pandemic levels, passengers will need to begin booking commercial flights again.

So as travel restrictions around the world are lifted, it will become more important for the flying public to see the industry taking cleaning and disinfecting aircraft seriously. Much of that responsibility falls on the ground service providers carrying out these cleaning duties.

“They can see that we are putting a lot of emphasis on cleaning and we’re taking the whole coronavirus very seriously,” said Brian Giacona, VP of operations at AccuFleet International.

In addition to remain overnight (RON) deep cleans, AccuFleet is applying ultra-low volume (ULV) disinfectant, commonly known as a fogging application, and made plans to acquire electro-static spraying equipment.

“We have started a fogging process for a domestic carrier,” Giacona said. “The chemical, based on the manufacturer’s information, says that it kills all viruses for a 10-day period. It was used during Ebola and in other areas where we’ve had viruses and outbreaks in the past.”

Both the fogging method and electro-static spray are effective disinfecting measures, Giacona explained. The key difference is the fogging method is more labor-intensive as personnel must ensure the mist is applied to all areas of the aircraft.

The electro-static spray, meanwhile, is electrically charged and adheres itself to all the aircraft’s surfaces.

“So you can virtually just walk down the airplane and spray this stuff in the middle, and it will attach to the walls, the seats, under the seats – any surface that has an area for it to attach to,” Giacona noted, adding this equipment is in high-demand.

The disinfection process can be daily or spread out over a period of days, depending on how long the chemical lasts on the surfaces.

“We’re also recommending more thorough deep, or heavy, cleans,” Giacona said. “A heavy clean is a very labor-intensive clean on an aircraft. It’s not just walking on, wiping down a tray table and vacuuming the floors.

“We’re currently doing heavy cleans on a nightly basis for a domestic carrier, where we’re doing them every single night in all of their locations that they have AccuFleet in,” he continued. “That clean basically entails scrubbing the airplane down from top-to-bottom. We’re using disinfection chemicals. We’re cleaning every crack and crevice, to the point where we even remove the seat tracks off the floor and clean underneath them.”

A deep clean on a 737 takes approximately 40 man-hours to accomplish, Giacona said. So, for AccuFleet to accomplish this, a group of 6-8 people clean an aircraft continuously for 5-6 hours.

While many cleaning agents can be utilized to disinfect aircraft, Giacona urges ground handlers to be mindful of an airline’s approved-chemical list.

Beyond cleaning services, at WinMar Engineering Technologies, officials are utilizing technology developed by Far-UV Sterilray to disinfect the air.

“We know the SARS-2 Coronavirus, similar to SARS-1, spreads in the air when people are just exhaling,” said Ed Neister, chief scientist at Far-UV and inventor of Excimer Wave Technology. “The virus, before any symptoms show, are going to be exhaled in little, tiny, 1-micron aerosol droplets that the human body normally makes.

“We consider air disinfection very important.”

Marty Craig, managing director with WinMar Engineering Technologies, also works for ADSI – an FAA Part 145 repair station. Years ago, ADSI applied the Sterilray program to aircraft in order to keep cabin air systems clean.

“That subsequently led to many other long-term interactions and planning,” Craig said. “We started WinMar Engineering to do some of the engineering for the ground services segment – not only cabin air inflight operations, but also ground handling and ground-related items.”

Sterilray manufacturers lamps that project a specific type of ultra-violet light that targets the proteins and peptide bonds of bacteria and viruses.

“Coronavirus turns out to be very, very susceptible to the Far-UV Light,” Neister said. “It targets the capsid in the virus, and that’s why it kills the virus so well.”

With limited modification, the system can be used elsewhere.

“On the ground side of it, it’s particularly focused on operational centers, air cargo container areas, gateways, jetways, any enclosed area that supports the commercial operations of aircraft – including FBOs and things like that as well,” Craig said.

The lamp can be made as small as a magic marker or as much larger fixtures.

“We have a wand that we can move over the surface that we want to disinfect – at 1 foot per second to 2 feet per second and get 100-percent disinfection,” Neister said. “We also have, what we call Luminaires, which are lamps in a fixture that sits in the top of a hung ceiling.”

source : https://www.aviationpros.com/airports/article/21133412/aviationpros-special-report-how-the-industry-is-working-to-combat-covid19

Istanbul Airport first to achieve ACI Airport Health Accreditation

The Airport Health Accreditation programme assesses new health measures and procedures that have been introduced as a result of COVID-19.

Istanbul airport first to receive health accreditation

ACI World and EUROPE have announced Istanbul Airport as the first airport to be accredited through the new Airport Health Accreditation programme.

ACI’s Airport Health Accreditation programme assists airports by assessing new health measures and procedures introduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in accordance with ICAO Council Aviation Restart Task Force recommendations and in alignment with the joint EASA and ECDC Aviation Health Safety Protocol and ACI EUROPE’s Guidelines for a Healthy Passenger Experience at Airports.

This includes cleaning and disinfection, physical distancing (where feasible and practical), staff protection, physical layout, passenger communications and passenger facilities.

ACI World Director General, Luis Felipe de Oliveira, said: “We congratulate Istanbul for being the first airport to be accredited through our new Airport Health Accreditation programme, which demonstrates that it is focused on the health and welfare of travellers, staff and the public. This will be crucial as our industry begins to restart, providing passengers and employees high globally-recognised standards on health and hygiene, which will help to restore public confidence in air travel.”

Kadri Samsunlu, Chief Executive Officer at İGA Airport Operation, said: “Aviation is an important industry that is bound to international rules and committed to continuous improvement aimed at maximised passenger experience. We continue our efforts to offer our passengers ‘safe travel at maximum hygiene’ in the new normal. The certificate has been awarded by Airports Council International and is really important to make sure that the aviation industry is in the finest possible position to support strong recovery in the near future. Aviation is a very resilient industry and we need to take measures to endure COVID-19 through implementing strict health and safety standards at our facilities and operations.

“The Airport Health Accreditation certificate should definitely be considered by all airport operators as proof to demonstrate greater readiness to build passenger confidence and trust. I must place special emphasis that we will never ever compromise on the hygiene standards we have achieved at Istanbul Airport.”

Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI EUROPE, commented: “Recovery from this unprecedented crisis has called for swift and thorough implementation across the entire aviation system of the global standards developed jointly by competent authorities. ACI has worked hand in hand with ICAO, EASA and ECDC to help deliver a blueprint for safe airport operations amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This blueprint, which has served as the basis for ACI EUROPE’s Guidelines for a Healthy Passenger Experience at Airports, is now complemented by a new Airport Health Accreditation programme. It is with great pride we note that the first airport to become accredited is European – reflecting the eager adoption of the new focus on the health-concerned passenger among airports across our region.”

source : https://www.internationalairportreview.com/news/123677/health-accreditation-programme-first-istanbul/

Dubai airport’s stations for free Covid-19 tests to be relocated

Karen Ann Monsykaren@khaleejtimes.com Filed on August 12, 2020 | Last updated on August 12, 2020 at 12.06 pm

(Photo by Juidin Bernarrd/Khaleej Times)

Covid-19 rapid test stations will no longer be available at Dubai airport departure terminals, according to an announcement by Dubai Airports.

Starting August 16, the stations will instead be relocated to a site outside the airport at the Shabab Al Ahli Football Club, near Al Mullah Plaza, on Al Nahda Street.

Passengers can avail of the service every day between 8am and 1pm, including Fridays and Saturdays.

They must present proof of holding a valid ticket or reservation in order to be eligible for the test, which is complimentary and valid for 96 hours from travel.

A ‘Fit to Travel’ sticker will be affixed to the passports of those passengers who test negative for antigens.

Travellers are advised not to remove this sticker until they reach their final destination, as the sticker replaces the need for a report.author

Karen Ann Monsy

A ‘Dubai child’, Karen has been writing for magazines for close to a decade. She covers trends, community, social issues and human interest features. Whether it’s overcoming disability, breaking stereotypes or simply relating the triumphs of everyday lives, she seeks out those stories that can uplift, encourage and inspire. You can find her favourite work at www.clippings.me/karenannmonsy

source : https://www.khaleejtimes.com/uae/dubai/Dubai-airports-stations-for-free-Covid-19-tests-to-be-relocated

The Airport of the Future Will Have No Check-In or Security Lines

The pandemic pause in travel may actually fix flying for the long term, say experts.

By Brandon Presser6 août 2020 à 12:23 UTC+2

An employee wearing a face mask cleans a kiosk at the departure hall of Singapore Changi Airport.
An employee wearing a face mask cleans a kiosk at the departure hall of Singapore Changi Airport. Photographer: Ore Huiying/Getty Images AsiaPac

Navigating the Roman circus of obstacles known as an international airport is likely the one thing travelers aren’t missing during the Covid-19 crisis. Now that forecasts predict tourism won’t fully recover until 2023, these transit centers are getting a rare, low-traffic chance to make many of the changes flyers have long wanted—along with upgrades they never imagined.

Among them: disinfection booths, biometric security scans, automated customs and border patrol screenings, and enhanced self-check-in stations. Together, they represent the most significant overhaul of the airport experience since Sept. 11.

“The traditional way we design airports has long been hamstrung in two directions,” says Matthew Johnson, who helped spearhead the ongoing $14 billion renovation of LAX in Los Angeles as an aviation principal for architecture firm Gensler. The de facto airport floor plan funnels traffic through an “X” shape, with passengers coming from various entries and converging at one congested portal—TSA—before dispersing to find their gate. This design was largely put into place after the 2001 terror attacks, when extensive security scans became emblems of personal safety.

If long lines were once the price of safety, they’re downright dangerous now. “Covid-19 is going to herald a complete reversal,” says Johnson, who proposes eliminating the X all together. Airports could become like casinos, he says, coupling eye-in-the-sky surveillance with state-of-the-art sensors—as in the “smart tunnel” at Dubai International that verifies your identity by scanning your iris as you walk through it. Add advanced X-ray technology, and airports may be able to identify threats without requiring anyone to line up, divest, or even put luggage in a tray.

The most radical changes have the potential to turn airports from hotbeds of frustration into beacons of innovation. Here’s a look at what’s being installed around the world, and a few ideas yet to come.

Checking In

relates to The Airport of the Future Will Have No Check-In or Security Lines
Illustration: Jaci Kessler Lubliner

Without having to rush to get through a snaking TSA line, passengers will be able to enjoy their time anywhere in the airport—including presecurity areas. Free of human gridlock, these spaces will be landscaped and outfitted with seating, where it will be possible to get food dropped off from Uber Eats or Grubhub if traffic is light and you’re a little early. Such deliveries are being tested at Toronto Pearson.

Airline apps will also mitigate the need to touch screens; in May, United Airlines Inc. announced plans for touchless kiosks that print baggage tags when you scan your phone. Coupled with QR code boarding passes and self-drop luggage stations, the check-in process will be fully digitized. From here, walking to the gate is a choose-your-own-adventure, done on your own time.

Going Through Security

relates to The Airport of the Future Will Have No Check-In or Security Lines
Illustration: Jaci Kessler Lubliner

Some airports already provide security without requiring human interaction. At Hong Kong International, passengers tap passports to unlock security barriers, scan their boarding pass, and have their photo snapped for identity verification at an electronic terminal. Munich and Singapore Changi have similar systems. Then there’s new technology that’s being fast-tracked for deployment: Remotely operated X-ray machines can check carry-ons for explosives, and millimeter-wave imaging systems can examine your shoes for traces of contraband while they’re on your feet.

In response to the current pandemic, thermal cameras—common in Asian airports following the 2003 SARS outbreak—will become a ubiquitous way to detect feverish travelers. Trailblazing Hong Kong International is one-upping that, with full-body disinfecting stalls that look like walk-in tanning booths. They take your temperature and blast you with an antimicrobial spray, all in 40 seconds. Except for these stalls, all the technology operates in the background, without your even knowing it (though it may alarm those concerned about privacy).

Navigating the Terminal

relates to The Airport of the Future Will Have No Check-In or Security Lines
Illustration: Jaci Kessler Lubliner

In places such as Seoul Incheon and Guangzhou, a new type of employee can be spotted throughout terminals: robots. Some of them sterilize common high-touch surfaces such as bathrooms, hallways, bag trolleys, and elevator buttons with UV lights; others flag authorities when they detect an unmasked face.

At JFK an artificial intelligence platform called SafeDistance is using cameras to monitor for congestion, so employees can easily identify overcrowded areas and open up other avenues of access in response. A similar software tool called Zensor uses CCTV footage to bring real-time crowd estimates for places such as gate-side bathrooms, coffee shops, or retail outlets right to a traveler’s phone; Pittsburgh International is piloting it.

Boarding

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Illustration: Jaci Kessler Lubliner

A touchless departure is the last step. Cathay Pacific Ltd. is working in collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to bring automated boarding gates to LAX and San Francisco International, joining a similar effort at JFK. They’ll scan your face and biometrically verify your identity, allowing you to get on the plane without handing over your ticket and passport.

James Groark, who handles landside innovations for the carrier as its vice president for airports, says that “eventually this will be mandatory for all airlines—the writing is on the wall.”

source : https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-06/the-airport-of-the-future-will-have-no-check-in-security-lines

These Made-in-India robots are helping health workers fight COVID-19

From monitoring temperature and sanitising spaces to enabling video conferencing with doctors, these robots by Indian startups are helping minimise human intervention and paving the way for the use of technology in our fight against COVID-19. By Trisha Medhi

Healthcare professionals, researchers, and governments from across the world are struggling to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected 18,486,295 people globally, and claimed more than 698,396 lives so far, according to Worldometer . While healthcare workers are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to their proximity to the patients, humanoid robots are replacing human beings across the world to ensure social distancing.   Invento C-Astra. Credit: Invento Robotics

Invento C-Astra. Credit: Invento Robotics

In India too, robotics startups have risen to the occasion to help deploy robots in places like hospitals, thereby minimising human intervention and paving the way for the use of machine to carry out tasks such as sanitising hospitals and to deliver food and medicines to the infected patients.  From disinfecting floors and carrying out temperature checks, to arranging video call with doctors in case of an emergency, robots are being deployed to minimise the risk for healthcare workers. YourStory lists few such humanoid robots invented by Indian startups that are battling COVID-19. C-Astra, Mitra, and RoboDoc by Invento Robotics Bengaluru-based Invento Robotics, founded by Balaji Vishwanathan, Mahalakshmi Radhakrushnan, and Bharath Kumar in 2016, is a full-stack robotics startup that helps automate customer engagement in banks, airports, restaurants, and other places. The startup has now turned its business focus to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. In April this year, the startup launched Invento C-Astra, a robot which helps screen patients and to disinfect common areas. The autonomous mobile unit can move around lobbies, hallways, and can sanitise rooms. According to the startup, the robot makes use of disinfecting UV-C lamps to disinfect a room completely in just three to four minutes. The robot is currently being used in hotels to disinfect rooms, and is also being used at Apollo Hospitals, etc.

Balaji Vishwanathan, Co-founder, Invento Robotics

Its flagship robot, Mitra, which was designed for customer engagement, alerts host about the arrival of visitors. With the current COVID-19 crisis, it has been modified with the following features – scans temperatures of patients, collects necessary details of patients like their name, phone number, and picture, and even sets up a video call with the doctor for further diagnosis. “This robot takes pictures of visitors and records their body temperature. It asks them for details such as name and phone number, and validates their identity. It provides these details to the organisation the person is visiting. If the visitor fails the screening test, the robot immediately connects the visitor with telemedicine support. Doctors can talk to them directly through the robot and advise accordingly,” Balaji says.  To reduce the risk for doctors from contracting the virus, Invento Robotics has come up with another robot called RoboDoc. This can move around the hospital autonomously, and it takes doctors inside COVID wards virtually, reducing their physical movement. It also scans temperature and other vitals of patients, and collects and feeds the data (their temperature, diet, etc.,) to the computer. Apart from this, the robot can also carry load of up to two kilograms. While C-Astra and Mitra can be used in various sectors including shopping malls, metros, warehouses, etc., RoboDoc is specially designed for the healthcare sector. RoboDiCaprio, RoboJulia, RoboNano, and RoboElf by Milagrow Milagrow HumanTech, founded by Rajeev Karwal in 2007, recently launched four new humanoid robots – RoboDiCaprio, RoboJulia, RoboNano, and RoboElf.  Specially designed to cater to hotels, hospitals, restaurants, and corporate offices, these humanoids can interact with customers, perform tasks, and navigate independently.

Rajeev Karwal, Founder and Chairman, Milagrow

The guest relations robot RoboDiCaprio can be used for business consulting, greeting, reservations, advertising, and patrolling. The humanoid claims to have face recognition capabilities with 98 percent accuracy, and can scan a distance of 25 m with an accuracy of 2 mm. The Serving Robot – RoboJulia is designed to deliver meals to guests, explain the menu, give restaurant information, etc. It can work universally, take fast turns, and has an emergency stop.  Similarly, RoboElf is a service assistant, which can be deployed in various locations such as metros, banks, and shopping malls. It has a business management system, which is built on a Cloud terminal that enables users to give orders or push new files to their RoboElf robots distributed around the world. RoboNano acts like a personal companion, and is equipped with Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service, smart home control, and remote surveillance capabilities. It has over 50 sensors to avoid objects in its way, recognise voices, and know when someone enters the room. Additionally, it can order pizza, request a car, track fitness stats, control the TV, and play music as well.

Earlier in April, the Delhi-based startup developed Milagrow iMap 9 and Humanoid ELF, which were being deployed by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) for its COVID-19 wards.  Asimov Robotics Kochi-based Asimov Robotics, under the Kerala Startup Mission, developed two humanoid robots in March this year. These robots were the first in the country to raise awareness about the spread of coronavirus among people in Kerala. The robots currently distribute masks, sanitisers, and napkins in the startup complex in Kochi. In addition to this, the robots also stream videos and brief people about social distancing and other steps to be taken to prevent the spread of the virus.

(Image: Manorama Online)

In an earlier conversation with YourStory, Jayakrishnan T, Founder and CEO of Asimov Robotics, said the idea was patented during the Nipah Virus outbreak that affected the state. The thermal camera sensors will also analyse people’s body temperatures and advise those with a high temperature to consult with the health department.  Prithvi by Delhi teenagers A group of teenagers from Delhi has built a robot called Prithvi to protect healthcare workers by reducing their contact with COVID-19 patients.  Nishant Chandna (15), Saurav Maheshkar (16), and Aditya Dubey (17) devised the idea and put it into action after Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a nationwide lockdown in March. 

Prithvi (Image: ThePrint)

The robot allows a smart tablet to be linked to it in order to enable video conferencing between doctors and patients. The team also plans to add a temperature gun feature to the robot to further minimise contact with the patients. “About 50 to 52 cases of coronavirus in India are of doctors who were infected while treating patients. We wanted to design something that would help protect those at the frontline battling this illness. So, we put our ideas together and designed this robot,” Chandna said during a media interaction. CO-BOT and NIGA-BOT by ITI Cuttack In April, the government-run Industrial Training Institute (ITI) in Cuttack developed two low-cost robots – CO-BOT and NIGA-BOT, which can protect health workers from the coronavirus and reduce the need for personal protective equipment (PPE). In the wake of the pandemic, the institute had constituted an innovation team that developed the robots in its laboratory, in association with SAK Robotics Lab, a startup. The service robot CO-BOT can move on wheels and has a humanoid structure. Its hand-like structure can hold a tray and carry a load of up to 20 kg. It can be used in COVID-19 hospitals for carrying food, water, and medicines to and from patients. The second one, named NIGA-BOT, is a telepresence robot, which can be used for surveillance and teleconsultation by doctors who can interact with patients remotely through live video streaming.  NIGA-BOT can be used to monitor the health of patients. “This will protect doctors and nurses from contracting the virus. All these innovations will lead to reduced need for PPE kits, and could be a saviour for health workers,” said Hrushikesh Mohanty, Principal, ITI-Cuttack. (Edited by Megha Reddy) Want to make your startup journey smooth? YS Education brings a comprehensive Funding Course, where you also get a chance to pitch your business plan to top investors. Click here to know more.

source : https://yourstory.com/2020/08/made-in-india-robots-coronavirus-aatmanirbhar-bharat

Touchless tech: Airports and airlines take steady steps to restore confidence in flying

By Linda Fox | August 4, 2020

Every week an airline announces its take on safety and hygiene measures in a bid to get consumers flying again – government restrictions allowing.

For example, Lufthansa says it is linking tickets to COVID-19 tests, while Emirates will provide free insurance for virus-related medical and quarantine expenses incurred by passengers.

It’s hard to blame these badly hit businesses for introducing measures to try to instill confidence in consumers that flying is safe against the backdrop of $84 billion in losses, predicted by IATA this year, and ongoing conflicting advice from governments.

While many governments maintain they are following science, a recent cry from European airports and airlines to governments says the lack of consistency in implementing science-based approaches is “crippling Europe’s economies.”

They are calling for “harmonized implementation” of the Take-Off Aviation Health Protocols devised by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the International Civil Aviation Organization.

In the meantime, IATA now expects full recovery to 2019 levels to be delayed until 2023 – a revision by one year from a previous estimate.

The reality is that it will take more than virus tests and the lifting of restrictions to entice customers back – meaning that technology has a huge role to play.

Last week, JetBlue announced an ultraviolet cleaning robot was being piloted on aircraft at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Florida’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, as part of its health and hygiene measures.

This is just one in a series of new technologies and measures that consumers will have to become accustomed to as travel takes steps toward recovery.

Touchless (eventually seamless)

A recent report from Simpliflying, published in partnership with Elenium, highlights how touchless technology will come into play throughout the passenger journey.

It charts how technologies such as biometrics, screening and scanners for temperature and other vital signs, as well for touchless bag drop, will become the so-called new normal for air travel.

Many initiatives are already underway, with CLEAR offering fast-track screening through airport security lines using a combination of biometric data, temperature readings and COVID-19 testing from passengers, according to reports.

At Denver International Airport, biometric and identity management specialist Daon is piloting biometric solutions to passengers and employees, following a partnership between the two companies.

Other solutions are emerging that look to make the most of resources already available to cash-strapped airlines and airports.

A recent announcement between Amadeus and Norwegian airport operator Avinor paves the way for a touchless travel journey for passengers.

Avinor, which operates 44 airports, is trialling touchless technology that allows passengers to check in, drop bags, proceed through security and board their flight.

The journey starts with remote flight check-in and a boarding pass in barcode form sent to mobile devices.

The code also acts as a coupon to print bag tags via self-service kiosk at airports, enabling passengers to drop their luggage at self-service units.

Avinor already offered touchless boarding at airports, and these latest upgrades make more elements of the journey contact-free.

Brede Nielsen, chief information officer of Avinor, says the company has often held back from expensive IT investment, but this time wanted to do something “more edgy” and in a short space of time.

From discussions with Amadeus in mid-March to the trials starting with two airports in mid-July, Yannick Beunardeau, vice president of airport IT, EMEA, for Amadeus, describes the implementation as the quickest it has done for this sort of safety solution. 

He adds: “Lot of airports are talking to us about some other solutions, some even more complex, but from time to time the simplest is the most efficient.”

Nielsen says 17 of Avinor’s airports have the potential to implement the technology relatively quickly and adds that passenger acceptance is the only thing that might hold things back.

“We’ve launched something that we think is a good solution, but everything is about the customer experience. We’re a little bit tense about whether they will understand the new way to do things.”

One major positive for Avinor with deploying the technology is that it hasn’t meant huge investment.

Nielsen says: “We didn’t discuss big solutions such as face recognition. We talked about the equipment we have, what we can do with that and how we can change the process with what we have.”

This is sentiment being echoed across much of the industry.

Andrew O’Connor, vice president of airports and borders for SITA, says that while technology to improve the customer experience have been coming at a “certain pace,” there is renewed interest when it comes to low-touch technology.

He adds that it’s about layering new features and functionality on top of the common-use platform already employed at hundreds of airports.

O’Connor says a new features set called SITA Flex enables previous touch points to be driven by mobile devices relatively easily.

SITA, he says, has realized people are not going to invest new money in infrastructure and systems, whether biometric innovation or mobile-enabled solutions.

“We’re building on a foundation, the common-use footprint, that is already out there, and it’s relatively easy to add on these other enabling features.

Both O’Connor and Beunardeau see an acceleration of technologies that were already being trialled.

Beunardeau says: “We know that the new reality will be different, so we’re looking at what the near future will be, anticipating what the touchless travel solutions will be and developing a family of solutions concerning social distancing, hygiene, self-service, biometric technology.

“[The virus] has helped us to accelerate all that so now we’re ready for this new reality. It’s quite astonishing how a trauma like COVID-19 could accelerate things in this area.”

Stakeholders also agree that collaboration is critical.

O’Connor says: “Reaching a kind of nirvana state in the way these things work has relied upon more and more collaboration between airline, airport and government.

“This situation has probably driven a very good and deeper understanding of the whole ecosystem and how it works and how even individual government policies and decisions link together.” 

Certainly in the case of Avinor’s developments, there was a greater understanding from airport management, airlines and even national security organizations of what needed to be achieved, according to Nielsen.

And any new spirit of collaboration could be a catalyst to drive digital technology in aviation beyond what it has been able to do so far.

O’Connor sees the collaboration as an accelerator to that “ultimate vision” proposed by organizations including IATA with its OneID concept of using biometrics to move through airports seamlessly “without breaking stride.”

He concludes: “There’s the more tactical measures to get things moving, but I think there will be a standing back to think about how we set ourselves up for the future.”

source : https://www.phocuswire.com/airline-contactless-tech

Passengers can now text cleaning and safety questions directly to United Airlines

United Airlines launched a new chat function – the United Automated Assistant – to give customers a contactless option to receive immediate access to information about cleaning and safety procedures put in place due to COVID-19. Customers can text “Clean” to FLYUA (35982) and get answers to questions about masks, boarding procedures, touchless check-in options and more, without having to call, search online or wait in a line for an answer.

“The travel experience has changed a lot from just a few months ago – we’ve overhauled our safety and cleaning procedures and this new text functionality makes it easier for our customers to stay informed,” said Linda Jojo, Executive Vice President for Technology and Chief Digital Officer. “Whether you want to know the latest about our social distancing and face covering policies or see how the boarding and deplaning process has changed, our Automated Assistant is designed to meet the customer where they are and get them answers in a simple, fast and easy way.”

The airline is also taking steps to limit the overall number of people onboard and separate customers wherever possible. United switched to a larger plane 66 times a day in May and June, for a total of more than 4,000 flights during those months, creating more space onboard. As a result, the airline’s consolidated average seat factor – or the percentage of occupied seats including customers and non-revenue passengers – was 38% in May; 57% in June and is expected to be about 45% in July, with less than 15% of flights operating with more than 70% seats filled, it said.Several of the airline’s precautionary measures to further ensure a cleaner environment include:

At Check-In

  • Implementing temperature checks for every employee working at all stations throughout the airline’s system
  • Installing sneeze guards at check-in and gate podiums
  • Promoting social distancing with floor decals to help customers stand six feet apart
  • Becoming the first U.S. carrier to roll out touchless check-in capabilities for customers with bags

At the Gate

  • Disinfecting high-touch areas such as door handles, handrails, elevator buttons, telephones and computers
  • Providing hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes
  • Rolling out Clorox Total 360 Electrostatic Sprayers in select markets to disinfect gate areas at United’s hub airports
  • Enabling customers to self-scan boarding passes
  • Boarding fewer customers at a time and, after pre-boarding, boarding from the back of the plane to the front
  • Introducing real-time seat assignment update text and email notifications to further United’s touchless airport experience

On Board

  • Using electrostatic spraying to disinfect 95%+ of aircraft
  • Disinfecting high-touch areas – such as tray tables and armrests – prior to boarding
  • Reducing contact between flight attendants and customers during snack and beverage service
  • Deplaning in groups of five rows at a time to reduce crowding

source : https://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/92965-passengers-can-now-text-cleaning-and-safety-questions-directly-to-united-airlines

UAE tops world countries in detecting COVID-19 with police dogs

Use of police dogs in UAE airports is now an additional defense line against COVID-19

Abu Dhabi: The UAE has realised a new achievement as part of its continuous efforts and preventive and precautionary measures it put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 to ensure the safety of the community.

The new achievement comes after the successful practical use of police dogs all over the UAE airports as an additional defense line in detecting presumed COVID-19 cases. In this way, the UAE is considered the first country in the world to put this method into action which is still under study and training stage in other countries.

source : https://gulfnews.com/uae/health/video-uae-tops-world-countries-in-detecting-covid-19-with-police-dogs-1.1596134510615