COVID-19: Safran and the Touchless Saga
The challenge presented
2020 has brought with it new challenges which have led to numerous changes in our behavior and day to day activities.
"The last time our industry experienced a dramatic transformation in a short period of time was post-9/11, when the introduction of enhanced TSA security measures and ballistic-resistant cockpit doors took place. The post-COVID environment will accelerate a similar transformation in the context of how the industry addresses the "new normal" relative to cabin hygiene", explains Tony Vaughan, Executive Vice President Engineering at Safran Cabin.
In the wake of COVID-19, Safran Cabin, partnering with Safran Passenger Solutions, put together a team to identify and work on opportunities to make our journey as passengers safer. This team has identified many improvements which will reduce the risk of contamination onboard.
"Our team is taking a market-focused approach towards innovation by meeting directly w/ the top 25 airlines worldwide and collecting their unmet needs when it comes to cabin hygiene. We analyzed all of the cabin touchpoints for both passengers and crew to identify amenities such as faucets, flush buttons and waste lids that can be modified for touchless operation", adds Tony Vaughan.
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Touchless activation is not a new technology. It's been around our lives since the late 80's when touchless faucets started appearing at airports and hotels in an effort to reduce water waste and reduce the transmission of microbes and viruses. The technology consists of an infrared proximity sensor that actuates upon the detection of a nearby object. In fact, it is already offered on the newest aircraft platforms, such as the A350 Lavatory pictured.
Despite being a known technology, it is no easy task to make an array of Galley and Lavatory products readily available to the different platforms on the market. As kits are already available for the A350 platform, development will now target Airbus A330, A320, A220 and Boeing B737.
"It is important to implement this hygiene in a way that is reassuring, and not intrusive"
Lavatories and common touchpoints in the boarding area and galley are clear areas of focus for the airlines. Safran Cabin is uniquely positioned to win in this market. The efforts kicked off by focusing on the development of critical components to the passenger experience during the lavatory journey. Touchless Faucet, Touchless or Foot Actuated Waste Flap and Touchless Flush Button are the first items on tap. Many of these will be developed and provided by Safran Passenger Solutions and integrated into Safran Cabin Lavatories.
"For touchpoints that cannot be made touchless, we are studying how to make these surfaces antimicrobial. We are also working directly w/ Boeing and Airbus on their respective efforts to make travel safe again, so we have an approach for both line fit and retrofit solutions. There will be an increased emphasis on hygiene, but it is important to implement this hygiene in a way that is reassuring, and not intrusive", presents Tony Vaughan.
Touchless technology: an essential equipment for the aircraft of the future
Touchless amenities embody Safran's strategy of developing "clean, green, and connected" products for future aviation. In addition to touchless being cleaner, the sensing system reduces water consumption, and connectivity makes maintenance easier for our operators. It is also a technology which improve passenger's experience onboard.
"It is challenging to adapt this technology to very stringent safety and durability requirements, and the development team is working hard to bring these features to lavatories everywhere", specifies Nathan Kwok, Vice President of Marketing at Safran Cabin.