The New Technology of Travel
by Ansh Motiani
It is an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken things up in the travel industry. However, from large scale lockdowns and travel bans to mask requirements and half-full flights, some semblance of normalcy is beginning to return to the travel sector. Nevertheless, in order to ensure the safety and security of passengers and crew, new technologies will have to be implemented throughout the industry for the foreseeable future.
Here are some of the ways technology is making travel safer during this worldwide pandemic:
Effective disinfection of surfaces has become the center of attention during this pandemic, and therefore, a priority for airlines and airports around the world. One way to address this pressing issue is through the use of robots and Ultraviolet C (UV-C) light. UV-C is a wavelength that damages a virus’s DNA and RNA, causing it to stop replicating and die.
At Pittsburgh International Airport, for example, robots are being implemented to clean the floors. These zamboni-like robots roam around the airport, directing UV-C light directly toward the floors. They are able to last for 8-10 hours before needing to recharge.
Automation in the aviation industry has been gaining a great deal of traction lately due to advancements in the field of robotics. Robots are being increasingly used in the terminal, being utilized for luggage transportation, passenger punctuality, and general help.
Smart and automated machines are also seeing use in baggage transport ecosystems, aiding ground crew in the long process from plane to belt and vice versa. A leading example is Vanderlande’s end-to-end baggage logistics solution FLEET, deployed at Rotterdam The Hague Airport, to further improve the efficiency of the baggage handling process.
These technologies prove to be extremely valuable, especially in times like these where minimizing face-to-face encounters is a priority.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an increasing focus on touchless technology to make the boarding experience faster. That same technology may now also prevent virus transmission.
Instead of handing over a passport or ticket to another person, the new norm may be getting your face scanned by a biometric device. They use sensors that let a person’s unique features, such as the curve of their ear, prove their identity
Increasingly, airports are using walk-through thermal screening cameras which detect the heat emanating from a person’s body and estimate its core temperature. The objective is to detect people with fevers that may have contracted the virus. However, critics have pointed out that these systems fail to detect those that are infected but asymptomatic.
However, a newer and more advanced device, Symptom Sense, could give airlines a better sense of a passengers health than a typical temperature reading. Essentially, the metal-detector like device uses touchless sensors to determine an individual’s temperature, blood-oxygen levels, heart rate, and respiration rate. Soter Technologies, the company behind Symptom Sense, is already in talks with the TSA to add the device to screening procedures.