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Coronavirus-fighting robot patrols Key West International Airport after hours

Virus Outbreak-Robot

KEY WEST, Fla. — A coronavirus-fighting robot is poised to begin patrolling Key West International Airport after hours, emitting high-intensity ultraviolet UVC light that kills harmful pathogens in the air and on surfaces.

The ultraviolet disinfection robot, developed by UVD Robots, is designed to remove 99.9 percent of pathogens including COVID-19. According to a manufacturer’s representative, Key West International Airport is among first airports in the United States to acquire one of the sophisticated units that provides non-chemical disinfection.

Richard Strickland, director of airports for the Keys’ Monroe County, said Wednesday that the robot’s acquisition was motivated by a desire to augment the airport’s other cleanliness and passenger protection practices in the coronavirus era.

“Passengers should know that, as they travel to Key West International Airport and utilize the facilities here, that we’ve made every effort possible against the COVID to protect passengers’ safety,” said Strickland. “And now, with the ultraviolet light robot that we have here, we’ll be able to step that up even another notch.”

Standing slightly under 6 feet tall and weighing over 300 pounds, the robot can move around the airport autonomously once it has been programmed and “mapped” the space. An operator with a tablet oversees its progress.

The robot’s autonomous operation is vital, since the light it emits during the active disinfection cycle is so intense it can only be used after hours when people are not present. A sensor shuts the light down if a human presence is detected to protect people from UV exposure.

Airport officials said the robot can disinfect the entire airport’s interior spaces in approximately two and one-half hours. They continue to utilize other efforts, including manual disinfection and mandating and providing masks for all personnel and airport users, to help mitigate the threat of the COVID-19 virus.