This One Airport Is Going to Extremes to Scan for Coronavirus

High-tech safety measures make this international terminal look like a sci-fi film.

With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the globe, upending our day-to-day lives, it can start to feel like we're in some kind of sci-fi dystopia. Social distancing and sheltering in place have become the new normal. But while offices, hospitals, and grocery stores have implemented strict health measures, no place has gone further than Hamad International Airport (HIA) in Doha, the capital city of Qatar.

"HIA has adapted to the changes brought on by the spread of COVID-19 on the world, especially on the travel sector," HIA CEO, Badr Mohammed Al Meer, said in a statement. "These [recovery] plans include the use of the latest advanced technology to achieve the highest safety standards for the future travel experience."

In reality, the cutting-edge airport looks straight out of The Jetsons—complete with robot maids and space helmets. One such gadget is the Smart Screening Helmet, which security staff are wearing as part of a health inspection for all travelers and crew. The futuristic headgear uses infrared thermal imaging, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality to conduct contactless temperature checks.

a disinfectant robot roams the terminals at Hamad International Airport in Doha
Hamad International Airport

After you pass through security, you may notice a robot roaming the terminals. This autonomous machine moves around high-traffic areas and uses concentrated UV-C light to kill bacteria, viruses, and other dangerous microorganisms. According to the BBC, these smart bots were originally designed to reduce the likelihood of hospital-acquired infections spread among emergency rooms. Since they were first released in 2019, the devices have been deployed in medical centers, airports, and even Amazon warehouses.

Ultraviolet light also comes into play throughout HIA's "disinfection tunnels," where all checked luggage is shuttled under the UV lights to be cleared of any lurking germs.

As for jetsetters, they have some rules to follow, too. Qatar Airways—which is based out of HIA—made it mandatory for its flight attendants to wear full PPE, including disposable hazmat suits, gloves, goggles, and masks. Though passengers don't have to go that far, they are required to wear face masks. To enforce that, the airport created a computerized surveillance system that scans for face masks to make sure travelers are taking the proper precautions. In the year 2020, Big Brother is watching. And for more ways airports may look different, check out the 7 Things You May Never See in Airports Ever Again.

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