Swiss Startup Developing UV Disinfection Robot for Offices and Commercial Spaces

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/industrial-robots/rovenso-uv-disinfection-robot

We’ll get to the disinfecting strategy in a second, but first, a quick word about ROVéo’s design, since it’s a little, uh, different looking. Based on the above video, you might be wondering why Rovenso doesn’t just use a conventional mobile base—a Turtlebot, a Husky, a Freight, or any number of other options that are simple and affordable. And the reason is simple: ROVéo can handle stairs.

Those tiny powered wheels with the enormous, cleverly designed suspension have no problems with stairs or even curbs that are as high as the robot itself, a capability that usually requires a much more sophisticated mechanical system. It’s also able to handle other terrain challenges, including this one, which has got to be infuriating (or catastrophic) for most warehouse robots since it’s effectively invisible to planar lidar. 

Relative to other UV-C disinfecting robots we’ve been following, ROVéo is taking a targeted approach, with the goal of being able to much more efficiently disinfect larger spaces like industrial or commercial areas. Hugely powerful UV-C robots for hospitals are designed to “fry” as many surfaces as possible as thoroughly as possible, which is fine in constrained environments like hospitals. But these robots are just not practical for (say) an office complex, where you’ve got to cover a lot more ground. 

ROVéo’s solution is to autonomously map its 3D environment with lidar, analyze that map, and then focus its UV-C disinfection system just on surfaces that are likely to be touched by humans, using a simulation of UV-C radiation to determine how long it needs to treat a surface to achieve a 99 percent disinfection rate. Surfaces that the robot targets include desktops, tabletops, counters, handles and handrails, and equipment in common spaces. You don’t get that same whole-environment sterilization that larger UV disinfecting robots offer, but instead you’re significantly reducing the viral load in just the places where it’s most important to do so. This means that your robot is disinfecting more useful areas faster with less downtime to recharge. It may not be the right answer for hospitals, but it could bring a substantial amount of safety to other spaces with less stringent requirements.

Estier says that Rovenso is prepared to supply these robots to interested companies if this prototype gets traction. Specifically, Rovenso is investigating deployments in industries like “pharma, biotech, medtech, and perhaps foodtech, where it would make sense to target specifically wet labs.” Like other disinfecting robots, ROVéo would enhance rather than replace existing cleaning processes, and Estier suggests that it could be offered as a service for several hundred dollars per week, which seems like not a whole lot for companies that want to offer an additional layer of protection for their employees.