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Edwards Air Force Base working on new technology to fight virus

Posted at 5:53 AM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 14:19:03-04

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Edwards is one of the United States’ largest Air Force bases. Located in Southeast Kern County, the base is known as the center of the aerospace testing universe. But the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic means they have a different mission.

“There’s no better time to actually be a leader in the air force because everything you’re doing is huge and very important," said Chief Master Sgt. Ian Eishen, the Base Command Chief for Edwards.

The base is still performing essential military operations amid the coronavirus pandemic, and it is repurposing some of its resources to battle the virus. Enter the base’s Makerspace Workshop, where we found Master Sergeant Jason Greenwell. He is the base’s Career Assistance Director, but he also has an emphasis in electronic warfare.

“What we’ve found is that UVC can help to combat the virus and many other viruses as well," Greenwell said.

Greenwell is building a robot that will be able to kill traces of the virus by exposing it to 10-15 seconds of UVC light. According to the Columbia University Center for Radiological Research, UVC light is potentially lethal for viruses in the air.

“It will go around the building, and have the UVC and stay in an area for a certain amount of time, then move to the next area," Greenwell said.

The project is in the early stages of development, but Greenwell hopes to program the robot to work autonomously similar to a Roomba vacuum cleaner, so it can disinfect rooms without people having to go in and risk their own health. Greenwell saying there are already items like this out there.

“But they range anywhere from 100k, to a million dollars and that’s not feasible in a lot of situations," he said.

Greenwell says he expects to have a prototype done within the next couple of weeks. Any design made will be sent to Air Force headquarters.

“And then we push it out, not only to the rest of the Air Force, but the DOD, and because these are open source, we share these with civilians as well," Eishen said.