Emirati inventor trials Covid-19-fighting robot to sterilise homes

Businessman Ahmed Al Mazroei built remote-controlled devices that spray disinfectant in indoor areas

An Emirati inventor has devised a compact machine that can enter buildings, climb stairs and trundle into homes to spray disinfectant.

Ahmed Al Mazroei adapted the "sterilisation robot" from the machines that his company makes for military and security purposes.

He said he hoped the devices could be used in the fight against the coronavirus.

"The robot can be sent into buildings, hospitals, malls and villas where nobody can go because of coronavirus," said Mr Al Mazroei, 39, who runs a company and a research centre in Mussaffah with 120 employees.

For outdoor, there is no problem you can just drive a car and put a machine on it but we needed to build something small that we could send indoors

“You can put sterilisation liquid, water, fog, smoke into the system," he said. "The robot can be sent to do the cleaning in closed, interior areas where you don’t want to send people.”

The unit can be remotely controlled from a distance of 3 kilometres, and operates on a battery that can last about 10 hours.

Five units have been tested over the past few weeks in Abu Dhabi during the nationwide sterilisation campaign. The device moves at about 10kph and has been built so it can through doorways and negotiate narrow stairwells.

Fitted with sensors and cameras that have a 360-degree view, it helps operators scan the area as they control its movement.

"We have started a production line of robots for use during the coronavirus," Mr Al Mazroei told The National.

Emirati businessman Ahmed Al Mazroei inside a research and innovation centre in Abu Dhabi where sterilisation robots are being manufactured to reach interior areas that may be inaccessible due to the spread of Covid-19. Courtesy: Ahmed Al Mazroei Innovation Centre

“For outdoors, there is no problem – you can just drive a car and put a machine on it, but we needed to build something small that we could send indoors.”

During the continuing sterilisation campaign, vehicles fitted with turbine machines have been used across the country.

The Ahmed Al Mazroei Innovation Centre can build three to four of the units every month, and they are already receiving inquiries from countries including Kuwait.

Mr Al Mazroei plans to hand over additional machines to the UAE government to fight the virus.

Asked about the cost of the device, he said he had no plans yet to sell the units until the crisis abates.

"I want to support the government – this is something we need to do so it can benefit the country," he said.

“During this time I’m thinking of the UAE. After the coronavirus problem is over, we will think about the price.”

The unit is designed, built and programmed in Abu Dhabi.

Mr Al Mazroei built a research and development centre to manufacture unmanned robotic vehicles.

The hardy remote-controlled vehicles, typically fitted with night-vision cameras manufactured by his company for military applications, have been tested in the desert and in mountainous terrain.

He has previously developed a falcon-training system and a light robot camel jockey.

He received an entrepreneur award in 2015 from the Mohammed bin Rashid Award for Young Business Leaders and was presented a top innovator award for entrepreneurship by The National.

The remote-controlled device is able to be navigate through confined areas and its tracks can climb and descend stairs. The National