De Havilland Canada Begins Development of Aircraft Disinfecting Robot

Credit: De Havilland Canada

De Havilland Canada has partnered with Canadian startup Aero HygenX to bring robotic disinfecting to Dash 8 Series aircraft cabins soon. The aircraft OEM will work with Aero HygenX to develop a new version of its autonomous RAY robot, which is tailored for aircraft cabins and destroys pathogens through high-frequency ultraviolet-C (UVC) light.

Launched in August, the original RAY robot provides 360 deg. coverage and was designed to target high-touch areas and surfaces where infectious droplets are most likely to land, such as armrests and seatbacks. Aero HygenX says RAY’s UVC light can destroy up to 99.99% of pathogens, including COVID-19. The robot automatically changes directions and moves up and down aisles without the need for human intervention. It is also equipped with a motion sensing camera, which can detect human presence and shut down automatically when motion is detected.

The new version of RAY, optimized for Dash 8 Series aircraft, will have a compact body that enables its use within lavatories and crew areas. According to the companies, the robot will enable disinfection between flights of Dash 8 Series aircraft in less than five mins. Operators will be able to access data analysis and reporting via the startup’s cloud-based HygenXStream service.

Aero HygenX RAY robot
Credit: De Havilland Canada

The companies note that RAY reduces the need for frequent chemical-based disinfection, which can potentially impact aircraft interior surfaces and sensitive equipment. Aero HygenX says the partnership with De Havilland Canada will also help it test the effects of UV rays on fabric and fire-retardant materials.

The startup expects its first robots to roll off the assembly line in February 2021. It aims to produce up to 200 units in the first run.

RAY is not the only light-based disinfection solution gaining traction this year. In June, Honeywell struck a deal with Dimer for the rights to produce and sell its GermFalcon system, now called the Honeywell Ultraviolet Cabin System. Honeywell says the system can be used to treat an aircraft cabin in less than 10 min. and is being used by a number of airlines, including Azul, JetBlue and Qatar Airways.

In January, Delta Air Lines announced a partnership with Vyv (formerly Vital Vio) to test its antimicrobial LED lighting technology. It has now begun installation of Vyv’s disinfecting lights within lavatories of its Boeing 757-20 fleet and plans to conduct further tests in 2021.

Boeing has developed an ultraviolet wand to sanitize aircraft interiors, tested in partnership with Etihad. The device will be manufactured by Florida-based lighting specialists Healthe after final validation testing.

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.