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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 20 January 2022

Coronavirus: Irish researchers develop drone that can deliver UV light to disinfect public spaces

The drones could be used at night time to sterilise empty trains, buses and restaurants.

Image: Shutterstock/Halfpoint

IRISH RESEARCHERS HAVE developed a drone that can deliver UV light radiation to disinfect public spaces like buses, trains and shopping centres potentially contaminated with the coronavirus. 

Ultraviolet light is harmful to humans, but is commonly used to disinfect surfaces in medical and laboratory settings. 

Using drones, the researchers say this light could be delivered safely and effectively to sanitise public spaces such as restaurants, public transport and shopping centres while they are empty. 

The project behind this drone is led by professor Derek O’Keeffe and Dr Ted Vaughan from NUI Galway, and Dr Kevin Johnson from the University of Limerick. 

O’Keeffe said the drone “allows the delivery of sterilising ultraviolet light to a wide variety of public space landscapes from staircases to shop floors.”

UVC light is harmful to humans, so the [drone] delivers the UVC light when the public space is unoccupied, such as at night time.

“The drone is programmed to switch on at a pre-defined time, autonomously fly around the public space using a bespoke AI algorithm and when finished cleaning, land again for recharging.”

UV light is not visible to the human eye and is divided into three bands – UVA, UVB and UVC. 

This drone uses UVC which has a high frequency and short wavelength radiation that can destroy the genetic material of the coronavirus. 

This would prevent it from reproducing on a surface, leaving it sterile. 

In April, US president Donald Trump had suggested using UV or just “very powerful” light “inside the body” to potentially get rid of the coronavirus. 

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Responding to this, the US government’s coronavirus response coordinator, Dr Deborah Birx, said she had never heard of heat or light being used as a treatment for viruses. 

It has also been widely dismissed by other health experts.

The light can work to get rid of the virus on surfaces, but it does not work once the virus is inside the body affecting internal organs. 

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