Feature   Defense News

Air Guard Wing Receives DOD's First UV Light Disinfectant System

Aug. 13, 2020 | BY Air Force Master Sgt. Jessica Roles

Over the last several months, the world changed dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. American families were crushed with the responsibility of wearing face masks, practicing social distancing and keeping social activities to a minimum. While it is becoming easier to manage these new expectations, other preventive measures are being tested and discovered, adding to the health and safety of people around the globe.


The Arkansas Air National Guard's 189th Airlift Wing, in coordination with the wing's innovation team, started the process to implement the Krypton Light Disinfection system. Working with FAR UV Technologies, a Missouri-based disinfectant technology company, the wing plans to install 50 UV lights throughout the campus and eventually innovate ways to use the light sources inside aircraft.

The company was awarded a $1 million contract to initiate the project with the wing. The goal of this partnership is to eventually encourage other units to purchase the same light system through accelerated means, officials said.The 189th Airlift Wing is the first Defense Department unit to use this system.

Men wearing face masks prepare to install an ultraviolet light.
Ultraviolet Installment
PJ Piper of FAR UV Technologies prepares for an ultraviolet installment in one of many facilities across the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., July 16, 2020. The wing is the first in the Defense Department to use this technology in the work environment.
Photo By: Air Force Master Sgt. Jessica Roles, Arkansas Air National Guard
VIRIN: 200716-Z-HN461-0002M

"About a month ago, we were running up on a deadline for wings to submit innovation ideas for a special round of government funding called special business innovation research," Air Force Maj. Justin Fitzpatrick, the 189th AW's innovation officer, said. "We weren't planning on going in for that, but the innovation team cold-called the company, and they got back to us."

"We seized the opportunity and used what they already did along with our own work to put this opportunity together," he continued. "We were only able to put this project together so quickly because of our close contacts with the Air National Guard innovation directors and our agile wing innovation structure."

The lights being installed may sound like a process already implemented in some facilities, but a difference in the amount of light used is what allows FAR UV Technologies' product to stand out, wing officials said. According to Far UV Technologies, this technology safely and effectively kills airborne or surface pathogens in occupied locations. This means that while on duty, airmen throughout the wing will have constant, additional protective measures in place to keep them safe and healthy.

"This will add an extra layer of protection in addition to our current risk mitigation strategies," Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Thomas DeGraff III, 189th AW senior flight surgeon and member of the Team DUCIMUS Think Tank group, said. "I see this as increasing exposure time to in-person interactions and decreasing the odds of viral exposure as well as decreasing the risk of infection. We don't have the medical peer-reviewed data to back that up 100 percent, but we do know that it kills pathogens and doesn't cause cancer or cataracts in humans."

An officer wearing a flight suit talks with two civilians in the cargo bay of a transport aircraft. All are wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.
Group Talk
Air Force Maj. Justin Fitzpatrick, the innovation officer for the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing, discusses the potential for ultraviolet light use with representatives from FAR UV technologies at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., July 16, 2020. The wing will be installing ultraviolet lights in high-traffic areas, reducing air-surface contamination.
Photo By: Air Force Master Sgt. Jessica Roles, Arkansas Air National Guard
VIRIN: 200716-Z-HN461-0001M
A man wearing a face mask installs an ultraviolet light on a ceiling.
Ultraviolet Light
A field engineer for FAR UV Technologies installs an ultraviolet light in the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Operations Group ceiling Jat Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., July 16, 2020. The UV lighting is environmentally friendly and mercury-free.
Photo By: Air Force Master Sgt. Jessica Roles, Arkansas Air National Guard
VIRIN: 200716-Z-HN461-0004M

The krypton light is a measure of ultraviolet light designed to eliminate surface and air pathogens while remaining safe for humans. The light, at 222 nanometers, does not penetrate human and animal skin or eyes, making it safe for everyday use. According to Dr. David Brenner, an independent safety expert from Columbia University Medical Center and subcontractor on the project, the lower exposure range is the key difference between the Krypton system and traditional UV sanitization systems, which can operate at up to 254 nanometers, damaging sensitive cells in the epidermis when used in occupied environments.

"Our advances represent a quantum leap forward in applied science because of our partnerships and represent a giant step for all of DOD," Fitzpatrick said.

(Air Force Master Sgt. Jessica Roles is assigned to the 189th Airlift Wing.)