Etihad’s early-warning system at Abu Dhabi airport to identify medically at-risk travellers

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The new technology can be retrofitted into any existing airport kiosk, baggage drop facility or installed as a desktop system at a processing point such as an immigration desk

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Etihad Airways Elenium Automation

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UAE national airline Etihad Airways said on Monday that it would partner with Australian company Elenium Automation to roll out a new early-warning system which uses self-service devices at Abu Dhabi airport later this month to help it identify medically at-risk travellers, including passengers who are possibly in the early stages of having contracted the Covid-19 virus too.

Read: Etihad asks staff to take between 25-50% pay cut; expands cargo operations

Etihad will be the first airline to test such a technology which is capable of monitoring the temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate of a person using an airport touchpoint such as a check-in or information kiosk, a bag drop facility, a security point or an immigration gate.

Etihad will initially roll out the system at its hub airport in Abu Dhabi at the end of April and throughout May 2020 using a range of volunteers at a time when international flights from the country are suspended as part of the UAE’s coronavirus precautionary measures.

Once regular flight operations resume, it will test the system on outbound passengers.

The technology would screen every individual, including multiple people on the same booking.

The new system can be retrofitted into any existing airport kiosk, baggage drop facility or installed as a desktop system at a processing point such as an immigration desk.

Read: Etihad Airways annual loss narrows to less than $1bn

“This technology is not designed or intended to diagnose medical conditions. It is an early warning indicator which will help to identify people with general symptoms, so that they can be further assessed by medical experts, potentially preventing the spread of some conditions to others preparing to board flights to multiple destinations,” explained Jorg Oppermann, vice president hub and midfield operations at Etihad in a press statement.

The Elenium system will automatically suspend the passenger’s self-service check-in if their vital signs indicate potential symptoms of an illness.

It will automatically divert to a teleconference or alert staff on-site, who can then make further assessments and decide whether it is safe for the passenger to continue their journey.

“At Etihad we see this is another step towards ensuring that future viral outbreaks do not have the same devastating effect on the global aviation industry as is currently the case,” added Oppermann.

In partnership with Amazon Web Services, Elenium has also developed hands-free technologies that enable touchless use of self-service devices using voice recognition, further minimising the potential of any viral or bacterial transmission through physical touchpoints at airports.

“Elenium has lodged patents for both the automatic detection of illness symptoms at an aviation self-service touchpoint, and touchless self-service technology at an airport. Combined, this would ensure health screenings can become standard across airports, without putting staff in harm with manual processes,” said Aaron Hornlimann, CEO and co-founder of Elenium Automation.