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Coronavirus Pandemic: Pittsburgh Airport Becomes First In Nation To Deploy Ultraviolet Cleaning Robots

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Pittsburgh International Airport is deploying autonomous robots to clean floors in an ultra-efficient manner.

The airport has teamed up with Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Robotics to deploy the self-driving robots to use ultraviolet lights that augment traditional cleaning tools, a first for U.S. airports.

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh International Airport

The robots are in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where airport sand other public spaces are searching for ways to enhance their cleaning methods.

Researchers say UV-C rays, which have been used to sanitize hospital rooms for decades, can be applied to other high-traffic settings like airports.

"The application of UV is part of a strategic airport-wide approach to cleaning as airport officials look to incorporate UV disinfecting technology in additional ways, including on handrails of escalators and moving walkways, elevator buttons and other high-touch areas," said Katherine Karolick, senior vice president of Information Technology for Pittsburgh International Airport.

The airport says the scrubbers scour the floor surface with 88 pounds per square inch of water pressure. Chemical disinfectant can be added to the process for a deeper clean, and the UV rays then pass over, creating three different levels of cleaning for the surface.

"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," Karolick said. "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."

Researchers will examine the floor surface after the UV scrubber passes over it to determine if any microorganisms remain.

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