KEY WEST (CBSMiami/FKNB) – A coronavirus-fighting robot is poised to begin patrolling Key West International Airport’s interior spaces after hours beginning Tuesday, Dec. 15.

The robot emits high-intensity ultraviolet UV-C wavelength 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% of pathogens including COVID-19. Key West International Airport is among the first airports in the United States to acquire one of the sophisticated units that provide non-chemical disinfection, according to a manufacturer’s representative.

The equipment’s acquisition was motivated by a desire to augment the airport’s other cleanliness and passenger protection practices to safeguard against coronavirus, said Richard Strickland, director of airports for the Keys’ Monroe County. Airport officials and manufacturers’ representatives demonstrated the robot Wednesday and Strickland said Thursday that the manufacturer’s representatives should be finished programming and training Key West airport staff by early next week. He projected the robot would be put into service the night of Tuesday, Dec. 15.

“Passengers should know that as they travel to Key West International Airport and utilize the facilities here, we’ve made every effort possible against COVID-19 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 nearly 6 feet tall and weighing over 300 pounds, the robot can move around the airport autonomously once it has been programmed and “mapped” spaces. A human operator is to ensure people are away from spaces the robot will sanitize and monitors its progress via an electronic smart tablet.

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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. For further safety, a sensor will shut the light down if a human presence is detected to protect people from UV-C exposure.

Officials said the robot can disinfect the entire airport’s interior spaces in approximately two-and-one-half hours. Airport officials are to continue to utilize other efforts, including manual disinfection and requiring that all personnel and passengers wear masks, to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

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