Canadian-made robot kills COVID-19 safely from a distance
Bill Cuming, John O'Bireck and Paul St-Onge have teamed up to create a robotic disinfecting rover in the fight against COVID-19. Ottawa, ON. September 14, 2020. (Tyler Fleming / CTV News)
OTTAWA -- In the fight against COVID-19, limiting its spread is our only defence, and two companies have teamed up to do just that, fanning-out their Canadian-made virus-killing solution to the world.
It looks like something that's straight from the pages of science fiction. A robotic rover with a nearly five-foot tall tower attaches to it. There are small nozzles and powerful fan blades on either side. It's a bacteria-blasting robot that will soon be down rolling down the isle of some school buses.
Two Canadian companies have blended science and technology to come up with this COVID killer
John O'Bireck is the president and chief technology officer with Sparta Group. The company developed an anti-microbial surface sanitizer for use in the trucking industry, but saw an opportunity to expand and provide their solution for a broader range of applications.
"A school bus is really just a truck with a more precious cargo in it with children," says O'Bireck. "In our case what we have is a substance that builds up a network of nanometer swords that mechanically kills [germs] it's got a positive charge that attracts microbes."
O'Bireck reaches out to Paul St-Onge with Aero Concept Systems and Bill Cuming at Plexus Controls who have been working on a solution themselves. Their product, the Aero-Tab rover, was created to evenly apply disinfecting spray in bigger spaces such as bus, train and airplane interiors.
"We were seeing that people were working in a cloud of mist," says St-Onge, pointing out that many sanitizing sprays are applied manually and have to be re-applied frequently. "We knew we could develop the artificial intelligence to allow us to do that on a big scale, whenever you're wanting to disperse something that you need to physically spray but you need to spray it in a way that allows you to cover top, side, bottom, and flooring all around it."
When the rover is placed in a bus isle, its operator can stand outside, clear of the spray. The powerful fan blades attached to the sides power-up and dispensers pump droplets of the anti-microbial fluid into them to be blasted out, up to 24 metres in diameter. The fluid is also electro-statically charged before disbursement, helping the mist attach itself to all areas and surfaces. This creates more effective results and reduces the amount of sanitizer needed. A school bus requires 500ml for full coverage.
The anti-microbial spray can defend against COVID and other germs for up to 30 days and the companies have no plan to keep their technology on the ground.
The team is plans to launch drones for large-scale applications in stadiums, gyms and churches.
Cuming has been building drones for many years and has developed technology with the help of artificial intelligence to map large spaces, creating accurate coverage paths. The drone would hover nearly four meters above the surface and use the downforce of the propellers to blast surfaces.
"The drones themselves have been developed over the last four years the sprayer drone has been developed since COVID started in the beginning of the year," says Cuming. "We're quite comfortable with stadiums and arenas the drone holds about six litres of fluid that's going to cover about five-to-six thousand square feet and of course we can scale up."
After six months of hard work and development, the team is ready to roll out the Aero-Tab rover for commercial use. Hundreds of units are being manufactured and the team is looking to scale the rover as well, building larger units for bus and subway stations. The team says they're excited to be creating a tool for today, for a new world.