Airliner cabins can get pretty germy. They're packed full of people from all over the world, who spend hours doing things like coughing, sneezing and touching surfaces with their grubby li'l hands. It was with this in mind that Arthur Kreitenberg and his son Mo created the GermFalcon. It's a robot that kills germs on planes, using ultraviolet light.
First of all, no, it doesn't roam around amongst the passengers while the airplane is in flight. Instead, it's intended for use between flights, while the aircraft is parked and empty.
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The wheeled robot has the same footprint as an onboard drinks cart, so it's able to autonomously move down the aisle unimpeded – with the help of a proximity sensor. As it does so, it spreads its two "wings" over the seats on either side. Those wings contain UV-C lamps, which are the same type used for disinfection in places like hospitals and water treatment plants. It also has UV-C lamps on its top and sides.
According to the Kreitenbergs, in tests conducted on airliner seating areas, exposure to those lights killed 99.99 percent of microbes within 10 minutes.
Along with seats, the GermFlacon can also be set to modes that allow it to clean lavatories and the galley area. It's additionally equipped with fans and HEPA filters, to draw in and trap airborne particles.
Arthur and Mo have been working on the robot for several years now, and are about to start work on their fourth prototype (which they plan on being the final one before going into commercial production). They're currently seeking development funds through Kickstarter. Backers won't get a GermFalcon of their own, although some smaller rewards are available.
The robot can be seen in action, in the pitch video below.