Robot that cleans planes
Credit: Courtesy of GermFalcon

Cleaning planes is a dirty job, but this robot is ready to do it.

The GermFalcon UVC Airplane Cabin Sanitizer system claims to kill 99 percent of germs, viruses, and superbugs on airplane cabin surfaces in approximately five minutes.

The motorized GermFalcon trolley can be rolled down the aisle, zapping cooties in every corner with a flash. It spreads wings mounted with UVC bulbs high and wide enough to clean luggage bins, seats, tray tables, and most other onboard surfaces. It can also be used to quickly disinfect lavatories and the galleys where food is prepared.

But despite these abilities, it can’t get off the ground, because every airline out there is ready to be second.

We all worry about catching a stowaway bug when we travel. Any public-use spaces are bound to attract germs, and planes are no different. In fact, the closed conditions of airplane cabins make them a focal point for contagion.

And travelers are not the only ones concerned about cabin cleanliness: There are a number of studies, including one by the CDC, which point to aircraft cabin hygiene as a public health risk.

Germs on planes are considered to play a role in the rapid spread of the flu during the holidays. They are believed to cause flight attendants to get sick at work more than others who work with the public.

The outbreak of Ebola called further attention to the risk of disease spreading quickly across the world by plane. The CDC even published guidelines for cabin crew to address contagious diseases on commercial aircraft.

But the majority of airlines have stuck to the cabin cleaning procedures that they have had for years: a quick pass by cleaning crew between flights, with more intense cleaning every four months.

Unlike other safety practices in aviation, there are no regulations which govern aircraft cabin hygiene. It’s up to the discretion of each airline.

The GermFalcon was designed to help airlines get cabins cleaner without sacrificing flight time and keeping operating costs at a minimum. The company estimates that it would cost airlines about $.10 a seat per flight on the average single-aisle aircraft to keep 99 percent of germs away.

Unfortunately, for now, the project is grounded. The company had one airline really fired up about the falcon in the U.S. — but that airline was recently acquired and the development process is on ice.

In the meantime, the company is committed to raising awareness and hopes it won't take a major outbreak to get airlines to see the light.