Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) is experimenting with disinfection pods and robot cleaners in an effort to protect passengers and staff from coronavirus.
Trials for various innovative technologies are currently under way at the international hub, many of which could become everyday features at airports around the world as more countries begin to open their borders.
One new feature being tested is CLeanTech, a “full-body disinfection channel facility” that may prove vital to checking the spread of future epidemics.
Following a temperature check, users must stand inside a small CLeanTech booth for 40 seconds. The interior is covered in an antimicrobial coating that can kill any viruses or bacteria within the enclosed space with photocatalysis and “nano needles”. A mist of sanitising spray is then released to complete the disinfection.
The facility is engineered to maintain negative pressure, which prevents cross-contamination with the outside when the door is opened.
It is currently being used exclusively by airport staff involved in public health duties, but with the trial phase due to finish this month, the process could soon become a standard feature for all staff and arriving passengers.
Steven Yiu, Deputy Director, Service Delivery of the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AA), said: “The safety and wellbeing of airport staff and passengers are always our first priority. Although air traffic has been impacted by the pandemic, the AA spares no effort in ensuring that the airport is a safe environment for all users. We will continue to look into new measures to enhance our cleaning and disinfection work.”
Among these new measures is the potential addition of robots to the airport cleaning staff.
The Intelligent Sterilization Robot is also being trialled while passenger numbers are low, with the expectation that it will be able to take over 24-hour sanitary duties in areas with high levels of contamination, such as lavatories.
Using a combination of UV lighting and air steriliser, reports indicate that each autonomous unit is able to disinfect a medium-sized area (both air and surfaces) in 10 minutes.
The AA is also experimenting with the same antimicrobial solution used in the CLeanTech pod in high-traffic areas of the airport where the risk of contagion is greatest – baggage trolleys, check-in kiosks and lift buttons have all been applied with the invisible coating.
HKIA is the 13th busiest airport in the world for passenger traffic, with over 71 million people passing through in 2019.
But its concourses have been almost empty since March, when Hong Kong imposed a strict ban on nearly all arrivals in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus in one of the world’s most densely populated cities.
With the number of cases subsiding, the regional government and Hong Kong Tourism Board are preparing to welcome travellers from mainland China within the next few weeks.
Dr YK Pang, the tourism board’s chairman, said: “In the post-pandemic world, we will see a shift in preference and behaviour among travellers – the public health conditions of destinations, and the hygiene standards of transportations, hotels, and other tourism facilities will become a top priority.”