Editor’s note: The following is part of Startland News’ ongoing coverage of the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Kansas City’s entrepreneur community, as well as how innovation is helping to drive a new normal in the ecosystem. Click here to follow related stories as they develop.
While winds of change have plenty of businesses pivoting product offerings, Digital Aerolus isn’t one of them — instead turning up the heat on its patented disinfectant tech.
Founding date: 2017
Founders: Jeff Alholm and Rod Underdown
Funding raised to date: Bootstrapped, undisclosed
Team size: 34
“I see this as less of us jumping on the bandwagon and more of us doing what we’re good at and trying to make the world a safer place,” Jameson Huckaba, director of product and business development, said of the Lenexa-based aerospace startup’s latest creation, the Aertos 120-UVC — a drone that can fly into tight spaces and uses 265 nanometers of ultraviolet wavelengths to kill germs that routine cleaning can’t.
“It’s like the worst sunburn that you’ve ever had in your entire life — and it happens within seconds,” he added, noting production on the illness-killing drone has ramped up in light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. “[The ultraviolet waves] actually physically damage the DNA of cells or of living organisms or viruses, so they’re unable to reproduce. That genetic material is damaged beyond repair.”
Operating the drone is its own act of social distancing, Huckaba noted. An operator stands outside the affected area with a controller and navigates the semi-autonomous cleaning process from start to finish.
“Generally speaking, the drone will disinfect approximately one thousand cubic feet every 10 minutes and you can consider [a room] clean at that point,” he said.
An industrial product with an industrial price tag — undisclosed by Digital Aerolus — Huckaba said the Aertos 120-UVC is expected to start shipping by the end of the month.
“We just wanted to create something that was helpful to people. We’re taking a look at hospital rooms and airplanes for instance,” he said of potential uses for the product, adding the company does a large chunk of its work with Kansas City-based engineering firms.
“We’re able to fly this drone inside an empty airplane and disinfect tray tables and seats. We’re actually able to fly it under the seats to disinfect those spaces or kill whatever sorts of nasty pathogens happen to be hanging out in that space.”
Such an ability could be the cure to a common concern for Americans still required to travel during the pandemic, Huckaba said.
The Aertos 120-UVC drone provides UVC disinfection capabilities in such areas as:
• Healthcare facilities (patient rooms, hospital rooms, and waiting areas)
• Grocery stores (checkout spaces)
• Warehouses and product handling areas
• Airplanes and public transit (seats and exposed surfaces)
• Business common areas (restrooms, workrooms, breakroom surface areas)
“We’re taking a look at the environment — we serve critical industries. These drones are doing jobs that you wouldn’t want a human being to do.”
Manufacturing an increasing volume of drones amid the global health crisis has presented the Digital Aerolus team with a challenge of its own — navigating production in the trenches of a Stay At Home order, Huckaba explained.
“We have strict social distancing guidelines,” he said. “We do many of our meetings now in our largest conference room to make sure there’s adequate space around us. … We also happen to go through what few remaining disinfectant wipes we can find just like everyone else in Kansas City.”
While the team’s production team is staying six feet apart, its engineering and office staff is staying at home, Huckaba said.
“It has affected us, but with that said, we recognize that what we’re doing is essential to the people that we serve who keep the country running and we are determined to move forward in the safest way possible,” he said.
Click here to learn more about Digital Aerolus technology and its Mind of Motion framework.