If you are scheduled to visit Luis Muñoz Marin International AirportDon't be afraid when you see the devices moving autonomously through the corridors, as these three robots will be responsible for cleaning floors in the highest traffic areas of the country's main airport facility.
Neilman Nevarez, Director of Operations Aerostar Airport Holdings CompanyThe airport's private operator explained that the ilfisk 500 robots, designed by Thoro AI, cost $220,000.
The executive explained that the robots use artificial intelligence (AI) to complete their cleaning tasks, although they can be used manually as well. They are able to sweep, map and sweep at the same time.
“When there was a shortage of staff, due to the increase in the number of passengers and air operations, it was very difficult for us to maintain airport operations with the few resources we had. One of the things we decided was to look for some help that would, in this case, be independent and responsible for some regions, in order to free up human resources to care for others.
To see if the robots worked, Aerostar tested the robot for six months. He confirmed that the results were positive.
The devices are equipped with a guidance system that uses sensors to determine where they should travel, while at the same time avoiding obstacles.
Likewise, robots have the ability to avoid collisions with humans, stopping if someone touches them, hits them, or climbs on them.
According to what was reported by Aerostar. The robots use a mechanism to send text messages to the operator to alert him of any situation, for example, if someone interrupts his work, if he needs water or soap, if his brush is damaged, or if he finishes his work.
The robots were distributed in different areas of the airport. One covers the general area from the hotel to Terminal A, where Jet Blue is located, as well as baggage claim service.
Another robot will cover stations A and B, while the third will be responsible for cleaning the floors of stations C and D.
In total, the robots will service 1 million square feet of terrazzo flooring. The executive said that each corridor could be cleaned within half an hour.
Asked whether the purchase of this equipment would replace the cleaning crew or lead to any change in the contract of the cleaning company operating at the airport, Nevarez confirmed that it would not happen.
“The equipment does not replace human resources, because I need to keep other areas clean, such as bathrooms, benches or other additional details. The machine will not do that, the machine will take care of the open spaces,” the executive said.
He added that the airport's cleaning services provider, Prime Janitorial, viewed the arrival of robots at the facility “positively.”
Prime Janitorial arrived at the airport in 2022, after Aerostar canceled the contract it had concluded with Perfect Integrated Solutions amid a wave of criticism regarding the cleanliness of the facility, especially in the bathroom area.
Nevarez confirmed that the situation improved after two years. The executive official said that the number of cleaning workers at the airport reaches 110 people daily, while the budget for these jobs in 2024 reaches $7.2 million.
“We (Aerostar) have an internal complaints system and all complaints we see we attack immediately. What we also do is promote areas of concern, such as the bathrooms. Now, we can have a resource there more often (in the bathrooms), because the machine will allow this The resource cleans bathrooms more than ever before.
The arrival of the robots coincides with an increase in the number of passengers at the country's main airport. In 2023, it ended with 12.2 million passengers and last January with 1.3 million, numbers that had never been recorded before, according to Nevarez.
“We broke the record month after month for every previous year,” Nevarez celebrated. “For February, we see the same trend.”
Likewise, the robots will join the unstaffed stores that Management Group Investors (MGI), the company responsible for food and beverage concessionaires at the airport, plans to open soon.
This newspaper previously reported that the first store, whose name has not been revealed, will be located in the building occupied by Vienna in Terminal C of the aforementioned airport facility.
The investment will be about $700,000 and will operate through the Zippin platform, which also uses artificial intelligence, micro-cameras and sensors, among other tools, to follow customers and identify the purchases they make.