UV disinfecting robots to be deployed in fighting Covid-19

The team of engineers that put together the Sunburst UV Bots. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - More than 200 locally made UV disinfecting mobile robots will be rolled out in shopping malls and the healthcare and transport sectors by the end of the year to help fight against Covid-19.

These autonomous UV mobile robots, known as Sunburst UV Bots, are made by local robotics technology firm PBA Group and are built with a lamp module emitting powerful ultraviolet-C (UV-C) light.

The robots will first be deployed in Northpoint City in May and eventually to more malls owned by Frasers Property Retail, PBA Group and Frasers said in a joint statement on Thursday (April 23). Frasers will be the first mall operator to utilise the robots in their malls and has a portfolio of 14 malls in Singapore.

The UV-C rays emitted by the lamp module help decontaminate the environment by tearing apart strands of virus DNA. The robots move around autonomously and are guided by light detection and ranging sensors.

As UV-C light kills around 99 per cent of bacteria and has been clinically proven to eliminate viruses, the robots will disinfect surfaces more effectively compared to manual cleaning and the spraying disinfectant solutions, reduce the need for cleaners and also help protect frontline cleaning staff.

"As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to unfold, it is critical for us to ensure the ongoing health and safety of our staff, tenants and shoppers...This forms part of our overall strategy to tap on technology and automation to increase our operational efficiency," Mr Low Chee Wah, chief executive officer of Frasers Property Retail said in the statement on Thursday.

In malls, the robots will only be used after closing hours. Depending on the size of the mall, the number of robots deployed will vary and is likely to range between 10 and 20 .

"This is just the start. We are already making more robots to introduce to the line-up. PBA will have a family of robots for commercial spaces, on top of hospitals, transport, supermarkets, shopping malls. Eventually, we will be getting the robot into homes," the group's chief executive Derrick Yap told The Straits Times on Thursday.

"Soon we will also roll out these robots in Malaysia, Thailand as well as Hong Kong - we already have large conglomerates placing orders and discussing with our team about the delivery schedules. We estimate over 500 robots in the mentioned region," Mr Yap added.

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As UV-C light poses a danger in close proximity, the public will need to keep a 5m distance from the robot. The staff will also either close the door or set up a temporary opaque partition to separate and distance themselves from the robot.

The Sunburst UV Bot is also able detect when people are too near and shut off its lamp.

When power is low, the robot is also able to self-navigate to its charging station. It can operate for around 2.5 hours on a single charge.

Apart from these robots, PBA will also roll out a mask donation initiative, the group said in a separate statement on Thursday.

PBA has donated more than US$50,000 (S$71,000) worth of masks and has called on other contributors to join them in this initiative. The beneficiaries include front-line staff in essential services.

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