A Seattle-based firm has developed what it calls a smart solution to inhibiting the spread of COVID-19 onboard airplanes. It’s called the “AirShield” and redirects airflow to create a “forcefield” around each passenger.
What is AirShield?
Developed by Teague, AirShield asserts that the problem is not distancing onboard, but airflow. Although HEPA filters generally purify air, a wayward sneeze or sniffle from an asymptomatic passenger could crew still spread the virus to passengers in the immediate vicinity.
To combat this, AirShield utilizes the space currently used by air gaspers (nozzles) to create an “invisible germ isolation unit around each passenger by engineering ‘blades’ of air.”
Similar to the warm air curtain you will have experienced when walking through a doorway of any retail outlet during winter months, this laminar profile of airflow creates a barrier around each seat that disrupts the normal circulation of air. When a passenger breathes, coughs, or even sneezes, the water vapor is contained within that passenger space and is immediately redirected downwards and out of the cabin to the HEPA filtration units before it has the opportunity to enter the personal space of a neighboring passenger.
In short, a “forcefield” around each passenger is created to divert air droplets downward before they can reach other passengers.
When Will AirShield Be Available?
The AirShield is currently in its testing phase and Teague admits that its effectiveness is still under review. But Teague promises rapid production is on the horizon and airlines can easily retrofit an entire plane with AirShield during routine overnight maintenance work:
The AirShield is a single 3D printed component that fits directly on to the PSU rail over the top of existing gaspers. The simplicity of the design means that with just one grill per seat row, the 60 grills required to fit a narrow-body aircraft could be fitted overnight as a service bulletin.
No cost was disclosed, nor was there mention of how such airflow might alter passenger comfort onboard. And of course not all aircraft have individual air nozzles. More info on R&D here.
Teague hopes its shelf-ready solution will calm passengers, actually be effective, and become a default component of future aircraft interior installations.