In an emergency, perhaps the two most important assets are time and information: how quickly can you respond, and do you know enough to make the correct decisions when you get there?
That’s critical for an airport, and it’s why Pittsburgh International turned to Albuquerque-based BioFlyte, whose technology screens the air for more than 1,100 toxins, viruses and bacteria that could be used to attack critical infrastructure.
One of the newest partners of PIT’s xBridge program, BioFlyte adds a new layer to safety systems and already fills a critical role for the airport, said Cole Wolfson, xBridge Director.
“Safety, security and health are the top priority for us every single day,” Wolfson said. “We’re very confident in our ability to maintain safe facilities and deploying BioFlyte’s technology takes that confidence to another level. We are a safer, better airport with them onboard.”
Founded a couple of years ago, BioFlyte sells fieldable aerosol mass spectrometers and related products designed to detect biological and low-volatility chemical threats. Technical jargon aside, the company provides its customers with more time and information.
“Early detection is the key to saving lives, protecting your infrastructure and allowing your operations and emergency response to make those real-time, intelligence-based decisions to mitigate that risk,” said Scott Pickett, BioFlyte’s market segment director.
One of BioFlyte’s modules is stationed within the airport’s HVAC system, providing continuous, autonomous surveillance of the air moving through the terminals. If the device detects a dangerous airborne agent, it automatically alerts operations staff and sends them details about the potential threat.
The technology has been under development for 25 years, said BioFlyte CEO Todd Sickles.
“The tech is advanced and it has a lot of benefits to it, but it doesn’t become disruptive until it’s put into the market,” he said.
Sickles said BioFlyte’s products are four times more accurate than competitors’ and take only a few minutes to identify threats.
The company has identified several sectors where it provides the most value, including airports, arenas and mail processing centers.
PIT is the first airport to deploy BioFlyte’s technology, and during the first-ever Aviation and Robotics Summit in March, the company was able to connect with airport executives from around the world and learn more about potential clients.
“Customers, at this point, are the single largest source of informing our development roadmaps,” said Sickles, who earned degrees in economics and chemistry at Washington & Jefferson College just south of Pittsburgh. “Really, it’s the partnerships like xBridge that are really helping us cross the goal line.”
BioFlyte will continue to collaborate with PIT and apply the lessons learned from its deployment to their products and processes going forward. Operating in a working environment with the xBridge staff has been invaluable, said Pickett, who has spent more than 30 years working in law enforcement.
“They have been the ideal team from the very beginning,” he said. “Based on my experience, they’re the gold standard for innovation, collaboration and partnership. I think it’s a model that could be and should be replicated not only at other airports, but at other infrastructures.”