The pandemic has pushed advanced robotics technology countries to look for ways of combatting COVID-19. Temperature measurement and disinfection are among the key tasks for robots to deal with. Disinfection is typically provided using costly and hard-to-use aerosol disinfectants or, alternatively, ultraviolet technology. The most recent developments in many countries involve robots capable of destroying the membranes of viruses and bacteria by “heavy” ultraviolet radiation.
Pursuing this avenue of research, a Skoltech team led by Professor Dmitry Tsetserukou, head of Skoltech’s Robotics and AR / VR Laboratory, developed UltraBot, a robot capable of killing viruses and bacteria indoors by generating concentrated ultraviolet light. Unlike other similar robots, the autonomous UltraBot is able to maneuver around moving obstacles and accurately position itself over long distances. The project partner, InEnergy, has developed new fuel cells for the robot, which will help increase the machine’s efficiency.
The team used the in-house autonomous navigation technology based on Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) and a modular multi-cell robot design, enabling robot assembly in the lab (and not in a specialized factory) and making the technology a lot cheaper to implement.
“Robot maintenance costs almost nothing. There is no need to use a human operator or constantly refill the robot with water and reagents, as it only needs far-ultraviolet light to do the job. This makes it much cheaper to operate and maintain than its aerosol-based counterparts. Plus, our robot is 4 times cheaper than UV disinfection robots from UVD Robotics (Denmark), a recognized market leader, and, most importantly, has an interface that allows you to easily configure and program it. These advantages will make it easy to deploy a whole swarm of robots capable of quickly and efficiently disinfecting large areas, such as supermarkets, hospitals, museums, exhibition space, offices and military sites,” says Dzmitry Tsetserukou.
UltraBot kills 95% and 99.99% of viruses and bacteria in express and regular mode, respectively, thanks to 254 nm far ultraviolet light and radiation-enhancing reflectors.
The new robot was presented at the “Army 2020” show and tested at Gazprom facilities where it displayed excellent performance as confirmed by the St. Petersburg Hygiene and Epidemiology Center. The robot’s capabilities were also appreciated by representatives of the retail business at the RetailTech 2020 exhibition.
According to Professor Tsetserukou, UltraBot is expected to be equally effective against COVID-19 and seasonal infections.
“Remarkably, the new technology has been created entirely in-house by Skoltech’s Master’s and PhD students who worked virtually around the clock throughout the summer. Also, we take pride in the fact that our small lab succeeded in creating an advanced technology that even large technology companies with hefty budgets could not come up with. At the moment, UltraBot is the only professional autonomous UV disinfection robot in Russia. We hope that it will help curb the spread of the pandemic in Russia, especially in the face of the current increase in COVID-19 incidence rate,” comments Professor Tsetserukou.
UltraBot developers include Skoltech Master’s students, Stepan Perminov, Nikita Mikhailovsky, and Alexander Sedunin, and PhD students, Mikhail Kurenkov, Alexander Petrovsky, and Ivan Kalinov.
Right now, UltraBot is undergoing tests and user trials in order to optimize and fine tune the technology so as to ensure the utmost disinfection efficiency in response to customer needs.
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