Airbus could use sensors to ‘smell’ coronavirus on planes as experts rush to adapt devices used to detect explosives – The Sun
AIRBUS is working on sensors dubbed "smell cameras" that could be used to sniff out coronavirus.
The ultra-sensitive bits of tech were originally designed to track down explosives, but now could repurposed for the post-pandemic world to track down the virus.
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Scientists have been working on the design since 2017 as they were initially dreamed up to stop terrorist attacks.
The sensors use tiny processors made of biological cells to identify specific chemicals or microbes in floating the air.
Airbus are now racing ahead with plans to make the sensors able to sniff out coronavirus, reports the Financial Times.
The aerospace giant is teaming up with California-based Koniku for the project – and early signs are said to be "encouraging" for the device.
The sensors could be used to provide advance warning for areas contaminated with the coronavirus – which has infected almost 4million people worldwide.
Writing in a blog about the project, Osh Agabi, CEO of Koniku, said: "Most infections and diseases cause slight changes to the composition of our breath and sweat, which then produce distinct odors.
"If we can detect those odors, we can detect the presence of those infections.
"This approach has been demonstrated successfully with cancer-smelling dogs, and detecting influenza A in breath."
He said however that training dogs is "time consuming, unreliable and expensive" – so the sensors provide a better option.
Cells inside the receptors would programmed to react to compounds in infected people's breath – triggering an alarm about the presence of the virus.
It is hoped the explosive-detecting variety of the device will be tested by the end of the year at airports.
Sensors are then hoped to be placed aboard plans themselves to combat any threats – including being repurposed for coronavirus.
Mr Agabi added: "Koniku and Airbus have been working since 2017 to develop a contactless and automated biotechnology solution to detect, track, and locate chemicals or explosives on board aircraft or in airports.
"We are now adapting our development activities to include the detection and identification of biological hazards including pathogens such as the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 with encouraging signals as of today.
"Covid-19 is a warning shot and it cannot be business as usual."
Many countries are beginning to ease their lockdowns, and are now looking for innovative gadgets to adapt to the "new normal".
Airbus's Julien Touzeau said: "The technology has a very quick response time of under 10 seconds in best conditions.
"With this level of maturity, it's an incredible result and hopefully it will improve over time."
Some airports are rolling out measures like mandatory masks and gloves – with plans being drawn up for social distancing on planes.
Gatwick Airport boss Stewart Wingate last month called on all passengers to take coronavirus tests 48 hours before take-off at the end of lockdown.
He also called for passengers to carry "health passports" to prove they have the all-clear and wear face covers while on flights.
Similar compulsory measures are already being considered elsewhere in Europe after the deadly outbreak crippled global travel.
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