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افتراضي World’s First Indoor Disinfection Drone Ready to Fight COVID-19

World’s First Indoor Disinfection Drone Ready to Fight COVID-19
In true timely fashion, Digital Aerolus, a global leader in autonomous technology for any vehicle that flies, drives, dives, or swims, has developed the first indoor drone with C-band ultraviolet (UVC) lights, created specifically to combat the spread of the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) virus with a 99% disinfection rate.

By using its patented technologies, the Aertos 120-UVC can fly stably inside buildings and sterilize areas, thereby reducing exposure of frontline workers to infections. Digital Aerolus’ industrial drones do not use GPS or external sensors, allowing them to operate stably in places other drones cannot go – including small and confined spaces.

The Aertos 120-UVC flies above a surface that it illuminates using 36 optically intense 265 NM LED UVC lights. At 6 feet above a surface and just 5 minutes, this is enough UVC intensity to provide a greater than 99% disinfection rate of a 2 meter by 2 meter surface. These drones are scheduled to be available in volume in May.

We had a chance to interview the co-founder, Jeff Alholm, about this innovative drone technology.

Alice Ferng, Medgadget: What is the UVC power intensity needed to inactivate viruses? Can you talk more about the exposure time needed for virus inactivation?


JeffAlholm, CEO of Digital Aerolus: We knowfrom studies with other coronaviruses that inactivation using UVC depends onexposure time and intensity. As a general rule, delivering 3 milli-joules of265 NM UVC to a square centimeter area will achieve a disinfection rateexceeding 99%. These results are not derived from our studies, but from thoseof our UVC LED supplier, Crystal IS/Klaran, and decades of pathogensterilization using UVC energy in various industries.

De-activatingthe replication mechanics of a virus on a surface critically depends on theexposure time and distance from the UVC source. We mount our UVC LEDs on amoving airborne vehicle.

UVCenergy emitted in the wavelength range centered around 265 NM is generallyconsidered the gold standard for effective UVC disinfection. There are multiplevariables in every disinfection situation. As a general rule, if a greater than3 milli-Joules of energy can be delivered to a cm by cm surface, then a greaterthan 99% disinfection rate is achieved.

Thecorrect UVC fluence or dose (d) is calculated using the following equation:

UVCDose (d) = UVC Intensity (i) x Exposure time (t)

UVCIntensity (i) = Power emitted from UVC light source or sources + distance ofemitters (in this application 36 emitters pointing down from the Aertos120-UVC) toward the surface being sanitized X (times). Exposure time (t) = timeof exposure.

Medgadget: What’s the UV operating frequency range, and why is UVC the most effective for this application? Was this technology based on any prior studies?

Mr.Alholm: UVC disinfection systems arebroadly deployed and sanitize much of the world’s water. Drone-based UVCdisinfection–our delivery of the UVC energy makes this product unique.

Disinfectionvia UVC emitters is not new, but there is a new class of small LED sources thathave recently become available for broad deployment. Using our stable indoorplatform to deliver UVC disinfection is what is unique. By combining our steadyindustrial drones with these small but powerful UVC sources, allows moreorganizations to deploy UVC disinfecting tactics quickly and remotely. Webelieve that some businesses and organizations need immediate, deployable, andpractical access to this technology to kill pathogens.

UltravioletUVC in the 265-nanometer frequency range provides an extremely high rate ofdisinfection. There are multiple variables in every disinfectionsituation.

Toprovide a broadly applicable example, we have calculated the time and distancefrom the Aertos 120-UVC to accomplish a greater than 99% disinfection rate.

Here isone example to help understand the Aertos 120-UVC capabilities:

Figure 1. Ray tracing simulation from the Aertos 120-UVC LED array.
â—ڈ TheAertos 120-UVC contains 36 optical intense 265 NM LED UVC sources arranged inan array pointing down from the UAV (there are options to the Aertos 120-UVCthat has additional emitters pointing up).

â—ڈ Whenthe platform flies 2 meters (~6.6 feet) above a surface for three minutes, itprovides higher than a 99% disinfection rate in the red center of the green boxshown below, or if flown for 5 minutes, the entire 2 by 2 meter (~6.6 by 6.6foot ) square is covered.*

â—ڈBesides just the surface, the entire area inside the Figure 1 ray tracingrepresentation is covered, roughly 150 cubic feet.

â—ڈSimilar simulations show that a greater than 99% disinfection rate is achievedover a smaller surface area by flying just 18 inches for 30 seconds.

â—ڈ As ageneral rule, if a greater than 3 milli-Joules of energy can be delivered to a1 cm by 1 cm surface, then a greater than 99% disinfection rate is achieved.

Figure 2. Total energy projection per second on a 2 meter x 2 meter area.
*=These images are the output from Zemax OpticalStudio using data provided by Crystal IS/Klaran, the company providing the UVC light sources arrayed on the Aertos 120-UVC. Digital Aerolus will provide users with additional information and software resources to determine the correct UVC dose for each disinfection before the Aertos 120-UVC’s broad product launch in early May.
Medgadget:At 6 feet above the surface, howconcentrated is the beam? Coherence can be a big issue.

Mr. Alholm: The simulations above are based on the data from this specific LED; it’s a lack of coherence that is helpful. The 36 emitters have a nice overlap of energy that can be seen in the surface energy density plots. Overkill is always good, more energy is best, yet this has to be balanced with sanitizing as much space as possible.

Medgadget: Can UVC inactivate COVID-19? How was this tested? Was it a partnership?

Mr.Alholm: COVID-19 is a disease caused bya new virus (SARS-CoV-2) related to other well-characterized viruses. At thistime, the CDC continues to develop broad disinfection guidelines for thisvirus. Recent research and protocols indicate that UVC energy centered aroundthe 265 NM wavelength is useful for COVID-19 disinfection, destroying itsRNA/DNA.

UVClight sanitation technology is currently used for surface and waterdisinfection all over the world. As you know, UVC technology is not new. Butgenerally, UVC sources are large, cost-prohibitive or impractical todeploy.

We are workingwith UVC LED manufacturer Crystal IS/Klaran, and we have worked closely tointegrate their UVC emitters properly. We have not entered into a formalpartnership.

We areworking with the manufacturer’s engineers to determine the correct UVC doses neededfor a 99% disinfection rate, and the graphics I’ve provided come from ZemaxOpticalStudio software with data supplied by Crystal IS/Klaran.

At thesame time, before the May production rollout of the drone, we are gatheringadditional data.

I want to make it clear that we are not trying to be experts on UVC or COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2). We are engineers and scientists, not UVC experts. However, there are decades of credible research surrounding the effectiveness of UVC as a disinfection tool. We are working with proven UVC research and applying it to a new delivery application via our stable commercial drones.

Medgadget: Are there surfaces where UVC inactivation is not as ideal for or ineffective?

Mr.Alholm: We’re hoping to find out moreabout disinfecting varied surfaces and spaces.

Fornow, the Digital Aerolus team will continue to focus on delivery mechanics andprocesses. As soon as we can get information from additional users about howthe Aertos 120-UVC tool performs in the field, we’ll improve on the most effectiveways to deploy our Aertos UAVs for disinfection tasks. Hard surfaces arestraight forward to characterize. Cloth and other porous materials require moretime and data to describe accurately.

Medgadget: Is there any harm to people if they are in the flight path?

Mr.Alholm: Drones are sophisticatedtools, and in general, require a pilot that has the skill and experiencenecessary to complete the desired task. Since conventional drones only fly welloutdoors, deploying a drone indoors multiplies the complexity and the chancefor a collision. We designed the rugged Aertos 120-UVC to withstand crashes,but there’s always the chance of a collision that damages the drone, property,or a human. Proper procedures, training, and, when appropriate licensing,should ever be observed. Our Aertos 120-UVC has protected ducts versus openspinning blade or blade with inefficient blade guards.

Also,the Aertos 120-UVC drone emits intense UVC light from 36 UVC LEDs. Thisfrequency of this energy is dangerous to humans: it damages DNA and otherorganic molecules and leads to severe harm to the molecule. That’s bad for bothviruses and humans. All pilots and any spectators of UVC disinfection shouldremain hidden from the UVC emitters while on. If around the energized emittersfor any reason, then proper eye and skin protection are required. The Aertos120-UVC is designed to be flown remotely, and the UVC emitters are wirelesslycontrolled during a flight to prevent the pilot from being exposed. We are allfamiliar with the need to wear UV sunglasses, and proper covering to achieveprotection from sunlight containing UV A and B energy. UV-C is naturallyfiltered by the atmosphere and is significantly more damaging to our skin andDNA.

Medgadget: If any of the UVC lights go out, does the efficiency and efficacy of inactivation decrease? By how much? Will the user be notified?

Mr.Alholm: If the intensity of the UVCemitters changes, the efficiency changes. But have put 36 UVC emitters on ourdrone, MORE than enough power to disinfect with a 99% kill rate, so that if anemitter goes out, the disinfection will still be successful, requiring slightlymore time.

By thetime production launches in May, we plan on having software tools available forall customers to use so that they can determine effective doses for eachdisinfection.

OurAertos system uses four strip arrays of 9x UVC 265 NM high-intensity LEDs. Atany given time, a total of 36 LEDs can be illuminated. The efficiency decreasesin a linear relationship depending on how many LEDs are on. We will provideperiodic testing and maintenance methods, but the lifetime of these LEDs aremeasured in many thousands of hours.

Medgadget: Are your drones explicitly built for a certain type of indoor space? How do they navigate around barriers? Are they programmed similar to a Roomba, and similarly – does it get stuck? (If it doesn’t use GPS or external sensors – how does it navigate a new area?) Is it fully autonomous, or can manual control be used? Is there remote-controlled video feedback? Tell us more about the imaging system – are there sensors to detect infected areas?

Mr.Alholm: For these UVC applications,the Aertos will be operated in First-Person View (FPV) by a skilled pilot usingthe cameras on the platform. We designed our drones around a unique set of navigationaland AI structures, we call these the Mind of Motion Framework and FoldedGeometry flight Code (MMF and FGC). Today’s Aertos platforms operate in what wecall semi-autonomous mode. Using AI techniques, we build a dynamic set ofkinematic models based on the environment that the drone is experiencing, alongwith “watchingâ€‌ the pilot. These models allow us to do seemingly impossiblethings: feeling and backing off from wall and ceilings effortlessly, adjustingfor wind or ventilation, correcting for drift and creating stability withoutoptical flow, magnetic bearings, maps, Lidar, or GPS. We are “instant onâ€‌ andcan automatically balance / perch on a pipe of the edge of furniture or afixture to significantly increase flight times during operations.

Because of their rugged construction and flight technologies, our Aertos platforms are generally difficult to get stuck. We’re not aware of any technologies that can detect micro pathogens from a distance. That would be an unbelievable advantage. We currently fly two imagers, a fixed low-resolution FPV camera, and a much higher resolution gimballed array. In other Aertos models, we have IR capabilities along with higher resolution visible spectra cameras.

Medgadget: What’s the use time for the drone (battery life)?

Mr.Alholm: Generally, we expect 10 minutesof flight time for our traditional missions but typically fly back at 8 minutesto play it safe. These times depend on many variables: the altitude andhumidity of the environment, how long the UVC LED arrays are on, and how longthe platform can perch. If perched or balanced operating time can be extendedto over 30 minutes. Since piloting a drone is a strenuous task that requiresconcentration, 10 minutes of non-perching flight time is an acceptable mission.

Medgadget: How many of these have gone into production? Do you already have buyers lined up? Where will these drones be first deployed and used?

Mr. Alholm: We are currently bringing up volume production for the Aertos 120-UVC drones in May. The platform is a slight variation on a platform we sell daily, our Aertos 120 industrial drone. We have a significant distribution and support network supporting our current and future Aertos customers.

CDWwill begin taking preorders and have this new product on its website this week.Besides our existing reseller network, we are talking to other potentialpartners and drone service providers to support our growing customer base. Yes,we have orders, and we are flying the Aertos 120-UVC today.

Medgadget: Anything else you’d like to add about the company, its goals, plans, or vision moving forward?

Mr.Alholm: Digital Aerolus’ mission is tocombine artificial intelligence with advanced mathematics to create softwareand the base technologies for vehicles that fly, drive, dive, or swim. Thecompany’s first commercial products using these technologies are the Aertosindustrial inspection drones. This includes our newest product, the Aertos120-UVC.

Our currentand future autonomous systems equip vehicles to look at the world differently –in a predictive, and not just a reactive, way. We believe this approach willmake the world a safer and more efficient place. The Mind of Motion Frameworkis particularly powerful: it quickly processes avalanches of input data topredict potential threats and then to effect changes based on aquickly-changing environment and risks. MMF integrates complex operators of allorientations, accelerations, velocities, probabilities, interactions, andnoise. Then, it projects how the host vehicle should behave. MMF is managingthe world continuously in real-time, coherently and concurrently, for vision,autonomous behaviors, various sensor data, and flight/drive operators. It mapsthe probability of interactions and collisions for all projected objects,including the platform, and projects a probabilistic cloud of interactionsbased on real physics. Other approaches to autonomous navigation management aresimply at a disadvantage.

This istruly transformative. When drones are no longer limited to flying onlyoutdoors, when robotic avatars can make intelligent and human-like decisions,when machines can perform dangerous tasks instead of people, the world is asafer place. And, we’re helping build that world.


Link: Digital Aerolus homepage…

Purchase page: CDW (drone distributor)

More: Interviews of Jeff Alholm by CGTN and Authority Magazine


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