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LMM airport operator adds 3 ‘janitor’ robots with AI tech to its staff

Three robots equipped with artificial intelligence have joined the staff at Puerto Rico’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport to clean 1 million square feet of terrazzo flooring, Jorge Hernández, president of the facility’s operator, Aerostar Puerto Rico.mk

Hernández said the airport’s operator acquired three Nilfisk 500 robots, developed by Thoro AI, for $220,000. The purchase contributes to the $7.2 million budgeted for cleaning this year, a $1.4 million increase compared to 2023, when $5.8 million was budgeted, he said.

“At Aerostar, we look for alternatives with advanced technology to optimize the services we provide to a public that is constantly growing. The airport closed 2023 with a historic record of 12.2 million passengers, which represented 1.2 million more passengers than in 2022,” he said.

“This increase in passenger flow forces us to boost daily cleaning tasks and care of the white and blue floors, which characterize the facilities,” Hernández added.

The robots can sweep, mop, vacuum and handle unforeseen events, such as spills, either autonomously or manually.

One robot covers the public area from the hotel to the JetBlue terminal and baggage claim. Another serves terminals A and B, and the third, terminals C and D, including the connecting corridor. 

The robots navigate using sensors to avoid obstacles and people, stopping if touched, hit or climbed on, and can text the operator about incidents such as work interruptions or maintenance needs, airport officials said.

“The industry trend is to incorporate resources that are autonomous. The new range of automated robots that use artificial intelligence, like the ones we have acquired, speed up cleaning tasks in areas with a lot of passenger traffic,” said Hernández.

“It’s an additional layer that is added to the cleaning process. By assisting in the maintenance of surfaces, resources that we use in other areas are freed up,” he added. “Employees perform deep cleaning on seating, rest areas, restrooms. Robots complement the process by their ability to cover more space in less time, but they don’t replace employees.”

Aerostar’s team has been trained by the manufacturer to program the robots’ paths and functions, he added.

In line with the new additions, Aerostar is inviting the public via social media to suggest names for each of the three robots.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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