CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Gerald R. Ford International Airport is testing a collection of tools that use ultraviolet light to kill viruses, including a robot.
The airport outside Grand Rapids called UV disinfecting technology a “natural fit.” It says it is the first one to test the UVD autonomous robot, partnering with Michigan-based UVC Experts and the iP Program out of Florida.
The robot will be used mostly at baggage claim and the security checkpoint.
Ford Airport is also testing a chamber that cleans small things like your phone or water bottle, a larger pod that will disinfect wheelchairs and luggage trolleys and a mat that will disinfect shoes in eight seconds — all of which use UV light.
“UV technology is the most promising disinfection tool to rid surfaces of COVID-19 currently on the market,” Larry Perez of UVC Experts said in a statement provided by the airport Wednesday. “The Ford Airport provides a unique testing space due to the many surfaces, light sources and potential obstruction points, such as benches. As we all work to return back to normal, looking at innovative ways to keep everyone safe is going to be critical.”
The airport has seen passenger numbers plummet amid the coronavirus pandemic, currently serving about half the people it was during the same time last year. It estimates between 5,000 and 6,000 fliers move through the airport each day.
That is an improvement from recent months. In early July, airport officials said passenger numbers were down as much as 80% from the previous year and in May, the figure was a whopping 96% lower.
In response, the airport rolled out a “Fly Safe. Fly Ford” education program to show prospective passengers the cleaning and safety protocols it has in place. Among those efforts are signs to encourage 6-foot social distancing, plexiglass barriers, increased cleaning, hand sanitizer stations and the widespread use of masks.
Last month, southeast Michigan-based Pratt Miller Mobility tested out another robot that sprays disinfectant at gate seating and other high-contact areas.