Drone that disinfects hospital rooms using UV light revealed by Irish team

3 Jun 2020

The @UVCDrone in operation. Image: @UVCDrone

Researchers from NUI Galway and UL have developed a drone that can sterilise a room using UV light.

One the latest innovations that aims to help tackle the Covid-19 pandemic now and in the future has been revealed by a team from NUI Galway and the University of Limerick (UL). The project has helped develop a novel method of providing sterilising ultraviolet (UV) light radiation suitable for a range of indoor environments with a flying drone.

It is led by NUI Galway’s Prof Derek O’Keeffe and Dr Ted Vaughan, as well as Dr Kevin Johnson from UL. As Covid-19 restrictions are eased and people around the world attempt to return to public spaces, it’s envisioned that sterilising drones could be used in areas such as hospitals, restaurants, trains, buses, aircraft, shopping centres, airport terminals and restrooms.

This new concept uses UVC light, which is high-frequency, short-wavelength radiation that can destroy the genetic material of microorganisms. This would prevent the coronavirus or other harmful microorganisms from reproducing and the method has been used for decades in water, air, laboratory and medical applications.

A need for innovative solutions

However, as UVC is harmful to humans, the team’s @UVCDrone concept will only operate when a public space is unoccupied. The drone is programmed to switch on at a pre-defined time, autonomously fly around the public space using a new AI algorithm and land again for recharging when it is finished cleaning.

“We need innovative solutions to fight Covid-19 and our @UVCDrone solution allows the delivery of sterilising UV light to a wide variety of public space landscapes from staircases to shop floors,” O’Keefe said.

This is not the first Irish effort to help limit the spread of the coronavirus in hospitals and indoor settings using UV sterilisation techniques. In March, Akara Robotics revealed its robot, called Violet, that is designed to traverse an indoor space to disinfect areas using UVC light. Violet has since been tested in clinical settings in Ireland with the HSE.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic