Etihad to trial monitoring technology fitted to airport self-service points that may be able to identify passengers with coronavirus

  • The machines have been developed with Australian firm Elenium Automation
  • They will monitor passengers’ temperatures, and heart and respiratory rates
  • New technology will be trialled this month at Etihad’s hub airport in Abu Dhabi  

Etihad Airways has announced it is to trial new technology that allows self-service devices at airports to be used to help identify travellers with medical conditions – potentially including the early stages of coronavirus. 

The technology can monitor the temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate of any person using an airport touchpoint such as a check-in or information kiosk, a bag drop facility, a security point or immigration gate. 

Etihad has partnered with Australian company Elenium Automation to test the new technology. 

Etihad Airways has announced it is to trial new technology that allows self-service devices at airports to be used to help identify travellers with medical conditions – potentially including the early stages of coronavirus 

The airline explains that the system will automatically suspend self-service check-in or a bag-drop if a passenger’s vital signs indicate potential symptoms of an illness.

It will then divert to a teleconference or alert qualified staff on site who can make further assessments and manage travellers as appropriate.

In addition, in partnership with Amazon Web Services, Elenium has also developed ‘hands-free’ technologies that enable touchless use of self-service devices through voice recognition, further minimising the potential of any viral or bacterial transmission.

Etihad says it will initially trial the monitoring technology at its hub airport in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, at the end of April and throughout May 2020, initially with a range of volunteers, and, as flights resume, outbound passengers.

Jorg Oppermann, vice president of hub and midfield operations at Etihad Airways, said: ‘This technology is not designed or intended to diagnose medical conditions.

‘It is an early warning indicator which will help to identify people with general symptoms, so that they can be further assessed by medical experts, potentially preventing the spread of some conditions to others preparing to board flights to multiple destinations.

‘It has long been the case that aircraft, with their highly sophisticated air-recycling systems and standards of hygiene, are not the transmission vehicle for illnesses. 

‘We are testing this technology because we believe it will not only help in the current covid-19 outbreak but also into the future, with assessing a passenger’s suitability to travel and thus minimising disruptions.

Etihad says it will initially trial the monitoring technology at its hub airport in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, at the end of April and throughout May 2020

WHAT ARE THE CORONAVIRUS SYMPTOMS?

According to the NHS, symptoms of coronavirus can include a fever, where a person’s temperature is 37.8 degrees Celsius or higher. A respiratory rate higher than the usual 12 to 18 breaths per minute for adults can also be a sign of the infection, according to patient.info. 

‘At Etihad, we see this is another step towards ensuring that future viral outbreaks do not have the same devastating effect on the global aviation industry as is currently the case.’

Aaron Hornlimann, CEO and co-founder of Elenium Automation, added: ‘We believe this approach is a world first. Elenium has lodged patents for both the automatic detection of illness symptoms at an aviation self-service touchpoint and touchless self-service technology at an airport.

‘Combined, this would ensure health screenings can become standard across airports, without putting staff in harm with manual processes.

‘The system would screen every individual, including multiple people on the same booking.

‘The technology can also be retrofitted into any airport kiosk or bag drop or installed as a desktop system at a passenger processing point such as an immigration desk.

‘We believe the introduction of touchless self-service and automated health screening will encourage passengers to return to travel sooner.’

Currently, Etihad is only running select repatriation flights for passengers stranded in the UAE to return their home countries.

Flights are running to Amsterdam, Melbourne, Seoul, Manila, Singapore and Jakarta.

The airline says it is also continuing to repatriate UAE citizens on return sectors, where possible, and is carrying fresh produce as belly-hold cargo, on the return segments back to Abu Dhabi. 

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