Boeing’s UV Sanitization Wand Will Soon Be Available For Airline Use


Boeing’s handheld ultraviolet (UV) wand, which was developed to sanitize aircraft interiors, will be manufactured for commercial use by US sanitization technology company Healthe. The wand was successfully tested as part of Boeing’s latest ecoDemonstrator program onboard an Etihad Airways Boeing 787-10 aircraft.

Boeing designed and developed a handheld UV wand as part of its Confident Travel Initiative, aimed at enhancing the safety and wellbeing of passengers and crew during the COVID-19 pandemic. The wand, which is a self-contained unit resembling a carry-on suitcase, allows crews to pass UV light over high-touch surfaces to eliminate germs, using 222-nanometer UVC light to inactivate pathogens. Under a patent and technology license, Healthe will manufacture the wand for commercial use, with Boeing anticipating it could be available for airlines as soon as late fall.

On board the most recent ecoDemonstrator testbed, an Etihad Airways 787-10 aircraft, the handheld device disinfected the flight deck in 15 minutes without the use of harsh liquid disinfectants, said Doug Christensen, Boeing technical fellow and technical leader of the ecoDemonstrator Program. The latest ecoDemonstrator program, which was completed earlier this month, also included tests of an anti-microbial coating, with the emerging technology showing promise for sanitization of high-touch areas on board, Christensen explained.

Boeing's UV wand roller case. Image via Boeing
Boeing’s UV wand roller case. Image via Boeing

Development of the UV wand came from technology tested on an earlier ecoDemonstrator testbed as part of Boeing’s Fresh Lav concept, which used UV light in the lavatory to eliminate 99.9% of germs after each use. “When the pandemic struck, we were ready to modify [the technology] for the UV handheld wand, as the technology was already in the pipeline,” said Mike Sinnett, Boeing’s vice-president and general manager, BCA Product Development.

Etihad Airways’ senior vice-president of Technical, Paul Kear, said the carrier takes onboard cleanliness very seriously and is open-minded when it comes to the use of such new technology. Etihad was also keen to participate in tests of technology that offer sustainability benefits. “We take sustainability very seriously. We are looking at every angle how we can be more sustainable,” stated Kear. In aircraft interiors, for example, the airline is in discussions with carpet manufacturers regarding the reduction of carpet weight.

In addition to onboard disinfection solutions, the latest ecoDemonstrator tested Quieter for the Community technologies, including low-noise landing gear fairings developed by Safran Landing Systems; and airspace and operational efficiency solutions, including a wayfinding-type system which allows an airline’s operations centre and air traffic controllers to share digital information with pilots, optimizing routing efficiency. All flights were flown with a 50:50 blend of sustainable aviation fuel – the highest blend approved for aviation use – made from inedible agriculture waste.

Boeing has a “pretty good hit rate” from its ecoDemonstrator program, said Sinnett, with one-third of technologies finding their way onto Boeing aircraft.”