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Etihad Airways to test medical scanning technology

written by Sandy Milne | April 8, 2020

Etihad Airways is testing a number of automated medical scanners in partnership with Australian company Elenium.

The contactless devices, implemented at airport self-service check-in desks, security points and other bottlenecks, will be used to identify travellers with medical conditions.

An Elenium demonstration of the proposed health screening kiosk (Etihad)

In line with calls from aviation officials for passenger screening in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, this could potentially include those travelling with the virus.

According to a press release posted by the airline on 6 April, the technology is able to monitor:

  • Temperature;
  • Heart rate; and
  • Respiratory rate.

According to Etihad, “The Elenium system will automatically suspend the self-service check-in or bag drop process if a passenger’s vital signs indicate potential symptoms of illness. It will then divert to a teleconference or alert qualified staff on site, who can make further assessments and manage travellers as appropriate.”

The Elenium model also incorporates a hand-free user interface, which will enable the use of self-service devices through voice activation. It is hoped that this feature will further reduce the potential of viral or bacterial transmission. According to the company’s website, the system will include:

  • A method to interact with a self-service device at an airport using head movement detection;
  • A method to read travel documents by holding them open in front of a camera;
  • A method to detect a passenger’s vital signs including temperature and heart rate in a contactless way; and
  • A system allowing a person to speak to an agent in real-time.

Etihad plans to unveil the technology at Abu Dhabi International Airport as soon as this month.

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Joerg Oppermann, vice president hub and midfield operations, Etihad Airways, said, “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.”

“It has long been the case that aircraft, with their highly sophisticated air-recycling systems and standards of hygiene are not the transmission vehicle for illnesses,” he added.

“We are testing this technology because we believe it will not only help in the current COVID-19 outbreak, but also into the future, with assessing a passenger’s suitability to travel and thus minimising disruptions.”

Aaron Hornlimann, chief executive and co-founder of Elenium Automation, said, “We believe this approach is a world first. 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.”

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