now boarding: automation
Houston airports deploy disinfecting robots in their terminals
What stands four feet tall, measures 22 inches wide, and weighs about 265 pounds? One of the six robots that disinfect George Bush Intercontinental/Houston Airport and William P. Hobby Airport.
Last year, the Houston Airport System spent close to $1 million for six Breezy One robots made by Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Build With Robots. The robots, each costing $160,000, now help the airports’ human crews keep the two airports sanitized.
George Bush Intercontinental has four of the robots, and Hobby has two.
“Breezy One is an autonomous disinfecting robot. It moves on its own and disinfects any route that someone chooses at the push of a button. It disperses a disinfectant fog which reaches all surfaces, penetrates fabrics, and even disinfects the air,” according to Build With Robots.
The robot disinfects germy surfaces such as tables, chairs, doorknobs, and keyboards. A Breezy One robot can decontaminate more than 150,000 square feet of space in one hour with a patented, environmentally safe disinfectant, purportedly eliminating 99.9999 percent of viruses and bacteria. New Mexico’s Sandia National Laboratories developed the disinfectant.
Build With Robots, founded in 2017, launched Breezy One in 2020 at the Albuquerque International Sunport. The company developed the technology in conjunction with the City of Albuquerque’s Aviation Department. In January, Build With Robots announced it raised $5 million in funding. That was preceded by a seed round of about $1 million.
Before the disinfectant-filled robots go about their work, members of the Build With Robots team map the buildings where they’ll operate autonomously. The team members then load the maps into the robots. The robots follow commands given by a facility’s custodial team.
Traci Rutoski, manager of custodial services at Hobby, says Build With Robots “is providing us with the best tools to keep our passengers, employees, and stakeholders safe.”
Sam Rea, terminal manager at George Bush Intercontinental, says the Breezy One robots have enabled the airport to step up cleanliness in the COVID-19 era.
“With the onset of the pandemic, we needed to explore new and innovative solutions so that when people come through the airports, whether for work or travel, they feel safe and secure,” Rhea says in a news release.
Augusto Bernal, a spokesman for the Houston Airport System, says that while the disinfecting robots have been effective, there are no plans to add more of them.
Aside from the Houston Airport System and the Albuquerque airport, customers of Build With Robots include HVAC manufacturer Goodwin’s 4.2-million-square-foot operation at Daikin Texas Technology Park in Waller, Mount Vernon ISD in East Texas, the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and Albuquerque’s Electric Playhouse amusement center. The robots, which can be purchased or leased, are designed to sanitize airports, arenas, stadiums, school buildings, and other heavily trafficked places.
Goodwin has installed one robot in Waller.
“This robot’s going to be able to clean 200,000 square feet of office and conference rooms in two, maybe two-and-a-half hours,” Charlie Strange, facilities manager at Goodwin’s Waller operation, told The Verge last November. “It would take my team all night long to do that — wiping down every surface by hand.”