UV robots could help to re-open schools

Many parents and students are longing for the return of this: in-person learning.

China-based robotics company UBTECH thinks it has one solution.

It’s created disinfecting robots that use ultraviolet light to disinfect classrooms and common areas.

The ADIBOT comes in two versions: a stationary model, designed to be wheeled from room to room by a cleaner or school custodian.

And an autonomous model with a Lidar sensor, which makes its way around a room, disinfecting as it goes.

The stationary robot costs $20,000, and the autonomous version is $40,000.

UBTECH General Manager John Rhee says the robots are 99.9% effective:

"It utilizes a wavelength of UV light, also known as UVC, to inactivate pathogens. It basically scrambles the DNA and RNA of pathogens and, you know, in disallowing it from replicating."

Because UV-C light can be harmful to humans, UBTECH has installed several safety features that will allow it to function in a school environment.

"We built in multiple layers of safety into the robot itself so that anything that, any type of ingress into a room, whether it's a human or a dog, will shut the robot off because we do not want people in those spaces. And so it starts off with the safety sign that is put in front of the door that is constantly communicating with the robot and any time that door opens, it basically triggers the robot to turn off. In addition, on the robot itself, you have an array of sensors on top as well as an RGB camera that's using A.I. to basically scan the room looking for somebody that enters into the room. If somehow somebody evades detection of the safety sign, then the robot is constantly monitoring whether or not somebody is in that space and will shut down. We like to say it is virtually impossible for somebody to be in a room while that machine is in operation."

Four ADIBOT robots were recently deployed in two schools in Delaware as part of a pilot project.

Dan Shelton, the superintendent of the state's Christina School District, says the robots are part of several strategies being investigated to make schools as safe as possible.

[Dan Shelton, Superintendent of Christina School District]: "We may never get back to normal, but we need to come up with some sort of a new normal, where our students are going to have what they need so that they can be successful. And we need to make sure that our teachers and our staff feel comfortable in the buildings if we're going to bring students back. So this was one of many strategies that we've investigated and some that we've invested in to try to make sure that we're giving that extra layer of protection."