Purpose-built robot can rapidly disinfect areas in fight against virus

Mark Telford

A robot capable of rapidly disinfecting large areas has been invented by a Cumbria-based world-first solutions business to speed-up the fight against coronavirus.

Forth Engineering, in Barrow-in-Furness, says it is known for its innovations to solve complex industry challenges in the nuclear, oil and gas, renewables and other sectors all over the world.

Now Forth managing director Mark Telford and his team have responded to the fight against COVID-19 by inventing a remotely-operated disinfecting robot.

“It’s an amazing bit of kit,” said Mr Telford.

“I took it to one of our sites and it disinfected 68,000 square feet in just 20 minutes. It’s very impressive.

“We’ve put together our tracked robot, vapour cannon, camera and lights, and developed the first one in a matter of days.

“That’s how quickly we always work, it’s just that the sectors which need our help are different right now and this is a national emergency.

“We have had lots of inquiries about it and we are now going into production. We will have to see how many robots people want us to manufacture.”

The robot is able to be worked remotely, controlled from a safe distance, to help the NHS and other organisations keep areas clean during the coronavirus outbreak.

“It can be used to sterilise ambulances, hospitals, shops and supermarkets, wherever it’s required,” said Mark.

“It works in a similar way to a vapour cigarette in that it fires high pressure vapour which will settle in every part of a designated area.

“It can also be used to disinfect factories and offices, schools and colleges, before people return to work and go back to education after the lockdown to make sure they are safe to use.”

Mr Telford said the speed of development is second nature to the business.

“When people have a problem, we come up with solutions. That’s our skill-set. That’s what we do.

The Forth disinfecting robot

“We are known across industry for responding quickly and coming up with quick, cost-efficient solutions which are ready to go.

“Our unique skills have been developed over the last 20 years of solving complex issues on the Sellafield site.

“We have exacting standards with our proven products tried and tested in the nuclear industry.

“If anywhere in the world can pull off a rapid response, working in adverse conditions, against the clock, and to a tight budget, then we can, and Cumbrians can,” he added.

Forth says it has a global reputation for its innovative solutions, saving lives by inventing robots to carry out hazardous tasks, instead of putting people into dangerous areas.

The business employs 54 people in Maryport, Barrow and Cleator Moor.

Its recent projects include working to develop a world-first Friction Stir Welding Robotic Crawler (FSWbot) for internal repair and refurbishment of pipelines which can be used by a range of industries without having to stop production.

It has also recently worked with partners on developing the pioneering Hullguard system of protecting floating offshore installations from corrosion without using divers, which has been successfully deployed for the first time in the UK North Sea.