Photo Credit: Paul Davey / Wikipedia
The Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft, Economy section.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is testing a new robotic system that will use powerful Ultraviolet light technology to rapidly sterilize passenger aircraft.

Lod-based IAI, Israel’s leading aerospace and defense firm, recently adapted its UV-C (short-wave-length ultraviolet) technology in recent weeks in order to disinfect the COVID-19 coronavirus units at the Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center and Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital) in Tel Aviv. The technology has also been used to purify water.


But it’s not a new idea: Dimer UCV Innovations created a UV-C-emitting cleaning machine called GermFalcon in 2014 for the airline industry, according to Reuters, which quoted Dimer president and cofounder Elliot Kreitenberg as saying, “We didn’t want it to take a pandemic to create the demand in this industry. That’s the situation we’re in and we’re building our units as quickly as we can.”

Use of the company’s machine in the meantime was offered to the industry for free during the pandemic. The GermFalcon machine is a food cart-sized robot pushed down the aisle of the plane. Mechanical wings expand and emit UV-C light onto cabin surfaces. A protective barrier shields the operator from the ultraviolet light, which can be harmful.

Kreitenberg told Reuters the GermFalcon can clean a typical narrow-body aircraft within three minutes.

UV light kills viruses in air-borne droplets and of the three types of ultraviolet light – UV-A, UV-B and UV-C – UV-C is the most damaging.

UV-C can damage the nucleic acids within an organism and prevent it from replicating. Its use as a disinfectant is fairly common in hospital and laboratory settings.

In Israel, IAI engineers have been working on a system that can work autonomously and automatically in a plane, once given a plan of the aircraft or any other large space.

The system is faster than the usual interior cabin cleaning, according to the IAI aviation division project leader interviewed by The Jerusalem Post, who told the news outlet the system is also “much more affordable” than existing cleaning methods with chemicals, water and other liquids.

Use of the technology will require regulatory approval from regulatory authorities in addition to installation of a powerful electrical system to provide the energy needed for the UV light.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.