Boosting confidence in the health and safety of America’s airports is key to restoring passenger traffic and bringing back the travel industry, Pittsburgh International Airport’s CEO told a national radio audience last week.
Appearing on Bloomberg Businessweek, CEO Christina Cassotis said ultraviolet disinfecting technology is a step in the right direction. PIT is the first airport in the nation to deploy autonomous robots to disinfect the floors with ultraviolet light.
“We all want confidence to come back in our industries and in our places of business, and in the travel industry we desperately need it,” Cassotis said. “So we are working closely with industry but also with our airline partners to figure out how can we do everything we can to make sure the journey is one that the passenger and the staff have confidence in.”
The airport teamed up with Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Robotics to deploy autonomous floor scrubbers—essentially self-driving robots that clean floors in an ultra-efficient manner.
The partnership is the first step in an airport-wide strategy to deploy technology solutions and multi-layered cleaning processes to enhance the health and safety of the traveling public in high-traffic areas.
“We think that UV light technology is very exciting,” Cassotis said. “What they’re looking at in the subways in New York, we’re looking at for the train that takes people back and forth to our terminal, on handrails on escalators and moving walkways. (The UV robots are) just the first of many things we’re looking at to inspire confidence back in travel.”
The scrubbers themselves are modified versions of machines built by Danish firm Nilfisk. Carnegie Robotics designed and manufactured the artificial intelligence and robotic systems for them that can map an area and then clean it without human help.
Bloomberg hosts Jason Kelly and Carol Massar said the airport didn’t have to look far for innovation help with Pittsburgh’s burgeoning technology industry.
“You just had to go right down the road in many ways. You got that right in your backyard,” Kelly said.
Cassotis said the airport had been working with Carnegie Robotics for more than a year in testing robotic scrubbers, quickly shifting once the COVID-19 pandemic hit to incorporate UV light as an additional disinfecting procedure.
“They called a couple of weeks ago and said, ‘We’re thinking UV lights,’ and I said, ‘I cannot believe you’re saying this. We’re thinking the same thing.’ Because we’re looking at how this kind of hospital technology can come into the airport spaces,” she said. “We hadn’t been thinking floor scrubbers, but they said give us a couple of weeks we’ll retrofit it and that’s what happened.”