Clean me up, Scotty: Hong Kong airport debuts cleaning robots, disinfection booth in fight against COVID-19

We never thought we’d get so excited about what looks like a very futuristic spray tan booth. Photo: Airport Authority
We never thought we’d get so excited about what looks like a very futuristic spray tan booth. Photo: Airport Authority

In the past, the futuristic technology that people imagined we’d have in 2020 was more along the lines of flying cars and self-tying shoelaces (the latter exists, though it’s significantly less cool than Back to the Future 2 made it out to be).

As we continue to live the nightmare that is 2020, it looks like the coolest innovation that the new decade has brought us so far is… a revamped spray tanning booth?

Earlier this week, Hong Kong International Airport gave the world a glimpse of its brand new cleaning tech, from autonomous cleaning robots that use UV light and air sterilizers to keep the key operating areas (e.g. loos) spick and span, to a full-body disinfection booth that reportedly kills all viruses and bacteria within 40 seconds using photocatalysis and “nano needles”.

The airport has employed the use of 'Intelligent Sterilization Robots' to routinely clean 'key operation areas' (e.g. toilets). Photo: Airport Authority
The airport has employed the use of “Intelligent Sterilization Robots” to routinely clean “key operation areas” (e.g. toilets). Photo: Airport Authority

The CLeanTech booth — which is kept under negative pressure, takes the user’s temperature, and also sprays them with disinfectant (ya know, for good measure) — is being tested in live operation for the first time by airport staff who handle public health and quarantine duties. Two are in operation at the airport right now and a third is earmarked for AsiaWorld-Expo, where health officials have set up a COVID-19 testing facility.

Finally, the airport is also testing out an anti-microbial coating on surfaces in public areas and on passenger facilities such as passenger buses, driverless in-airport trains, smart check-in kiosks, check-in counters, toilets, seating areas, trolleys, and elevator buttons.

“The safety and wellbeing of airport staff and passengers are always our first priority,” said Steven Yiu, Airport Authority’s deputy director of service delivery. “Although air traffic has been impacted by the pandemic, the AA spares no effort in ensuring that the airport is a safe environment for all users. We will continue to look into new measures to enhance our cleaning and disinfection work.”

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