Etihad to test tech that identifies medically at-risk travelers

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Etihad Airways has partnered with Australian company Elenium Automation to trial new technology that enables self-service devices at airports to be used to help identify travelers with medical conditions, potentially including the early stages of COVID-19.

The airline is laying claim to being the first carrier to trial the technology, which can monitor the temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate of any person using a check-in or information kiosk, a bag drop facility, a security point or immigration gate.

In a statement released today, Etihad explained that the Elenium Automation system will automatically suspend the self-service check-in or bag drop process if a passenger’s vital signs indicate potential symptoms of illness. It will then divert to a teleconference or alert qualified staff on site, who can make further assessments and manage travelers as appropriate.

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

“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,” said Etihad Airways vice president hub and midfield operations Jorg Oppermann.

“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 minimizing disruptions. 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.”

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Aaron Hornlimann, CEO and co-founder of Elenium Automation, said in a statement that his company recognized an opportunity to enhance existing systems to instill greater confidence in the traveling public during the COVID-19 crisis and in future. “The potential benefit of such enhancements is to provide peace of mind to passengers and staff that symptoms of illness can be detected at any self-service terminal, so anyone who presents with these symptoms can be intercepted before boarding an aircraft,” he suggested, noting that the firm believes this approach “is a world first”.

According to Elenium Automation, the system can 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. The firm believes the introduction of touchless self-service and automated health screening will encourage passengers to return to travel sooner.

In partnership with Amazon Web Services, Elenium Automation has also developed ‘hands free’ technologies that enable touchless use of self-service devices through voice recognition, further minimizing the potential of any viral or bacterial transmission. It is currently in discussions with other existing aviation customers regarding introducing the technology into airports.

Image at top credited to Elenium Automation

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