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JetBlue Calls on Robots to Clean Aircraft

JetBlue Calls on Robots to Clean Aircraft
Joe Cortez

New York airline JetBlue is adding robots to their cleaning staff, with the hopes they can kill the novel Coronavirus and other germs on aircraft. The Honeywell-built bots shoot ultraviolet light throughout the cabin, which may reduce the presence of viruses and bacteria on surfaces.

To keep airplanes clean and flyers safe between trips, JetBlue will start adding robots to their cleaning team. In an announcement, the New York-based airline said they would begin using the Honeywell UV Cabin System bots to disinfect surfaces using ultraviolet rays

Ultraviolet Light Shown to “Significantly Reduce Certain Viruses,” Including COVID-19

According to Honeywell, clinical studies of ultraviolet light applications suggest it can “significantly reduce” the number of viruses and bacteria on surfaces. To give a boost to their current cleaning strategy, JetBlue is adding 10 Honeywell robots, which will aid crews in disinfecting aircraft.

The robot is about the size of an aircraft drink cart, and can move up and down the aisle of a narrow-body aircraft in less than 10 minutes. Using two extendable arms, the device will shoot UV-C rays on airplane surfaces. If successful, the robots are reported to be able to reduce bacteria and virus counts in cabins.

The science behind using UV rays comes from multiple Boston University studies to see how UV rays act as a disinfecting agent. Their preliminary results suggest UV-C light may be able to inactivate the COVID-19 virus. However, while both companies say there is science to back up the test, they also note that results may vary based on UV dosage and application.

“With the safety of our crew members and customers our first priority, JetBlue’s Safety from the Ground Up initiative is maintaining a layered approach to safety by ensuring healthy crew members, providing flexibility, adding space, reducing touchpoints, and keeping surfaces clean and sanitized,” JetBlue President and COO Joanna Geraghty said in the press release. “As we look to add additional layers of protection by utilizing cutting-edge technology, we have identified the Honeywell UV Cabin System as a potential game changer when it comes to efficiently assisting in our efforts to sanitize surfaces onboard.”

The airline’s trial robots will be deployed at two focus airports: New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL). Over the 90-day working trial, both JetBlue and Honeywell will determine their effectiveness and potentially make changes.

Can UV Rays Act as a Disinfecting Agent?

This isn’t the first time airlines have considered UV light to help cleanliness aboard aircraft. In 2016, Boeing developed a “self-cleaning” lavatory, utilizing UV rays. Between uses, the proposed lavatory technology would expose the surfaces to the UV light, which would potentially kill 99.99 percent of pathogens and odors. The lavatory is still in the prototype phase, and has yet to make it aboard any aircraft.

Feature image courtesy: Honeywell

View Comments (4)


  1. DaveS

    July 30, 2020 at 4:08 am

    LCC money making opportunity on the way… Aircraft toilets = tanning studios.

  2. Frodosan

    July 30, 2020 at 8:30 am

    I wonder if they have done any studies to see the effects of high-intensity UV radiation on the materials that the seats and interiors are made of. Will this unplanned exposure cause premature aging and deterioration?

  3. glob99

    July 30, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    There are so many surfaces that won’t be illuminated by the UV light.

  4. LimeySD

    July 30, 2020 at 2:38 pm

    UV embrittlement is certainly a possibility but at these doses will probably only result in discolorization of materials, so we can look forward to a more dingy looking cabin. Of greater concern is that light (remember UV is one) travels in straight lines, so there will be many surfaces that have not be decontaminated. This is why electrospray disinfectants are so popular, the charged particles do an excellent job of sticking everywhere.

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