Irish scientists build ultraviolet drone to fight COVID-19

By: June 3, 2020
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Scientists from NUI Galway and the University of Limerick have built a drone that can fly around public places delivering ultraviolet light to kill off COVID-19. The UV light disinfects public surfaces and reduces the transmission of coronavirus.

The drone uses ultraviolet (UV) light to sterilise surfaces. UV light (10-400 nm) is not visible to the human eye and is divided into three bands UVA, UVB and UVC. The UVC Drone uses UVC (100-280nm) which is high frequency, short wavelength radiation that can destroy the genetic material of microorganisms. This prevents viruses and bugs from reproducing. Its germicidal action has been used for decades in water, air, laboratory and medical applications.

“We need innovative solutions to fight COVID-19 and our UVC Drone solution allows the delivery of sterilising ultraviolet light to a variety of public space landscapes from staircases to shop floors,” says Derek O’Keeffe, professor of Medical Device Technology at NUI Galway and consultant physician at University Hospital Galway.

A flying robot
UVC light is harmful to humans, so the drone delivers the UVC light when the public space is unoccupied, such as at night time. The drone is programmed to switch on at a predefined time, fly around the public space using an AI algorithm and when finished cleaning, it lands again for recharging.

The drone project is led by NUI Galway’s Professor Derek O’Keeffe and Dr Ted Vaughan, with Dr Kevin Johnson from the University of Limerick.

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