PALO ALTO, Calif (KGO) -- A team of scientists and engineers at Lockheed Martin, a global security and aerospace company with deep ties to Silicon Valley, is now on a special mission to help frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19.
Within a matter of weeks, the company produced a working prototype of a powered air-purifying respirator, or PAPR for short, that it'll soon send to the federal government for emergency approval.
"We've been incrementally designing and then have to perform all the different tests to make sure that these will work and that these will work robustly in a hospital environment," said senior research scientist Kristyn Kadala.
The process from conception to authorization would normally take years under normal circumstances, but the FDA is making exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
"The workers will be protected, they'll receive adequate airflow, and they'll also have something that will stay clean and free of any contaminants," added Kadala.
With limited supplies, the goal is to take advantage of easier-to-find pieces that can be put together to deliver the same functionality at a lower cost. For example, a relatively inexpensive respirator bag can be used as a stopgap for patients.
"You've seen respirator bags on any medical show, where the patients are going down the hall, squeezing the bag to keep them breathing... well that's a respirator bag, so we have a device that will mechanically squeeze that," said senior space security manager Scott Richardson.
Lockheed Martin plans to provide these highly sought-after items free of charge to hospitals in the Bay Area. In addition, the company has already produced and donated more than 30,000 protective gowns and 25,000 face shields, as well as temperature scanners and mask sterilization tools, to dozens of other medical facilities across the country.
"We never forget who we're working for at Lockheed Martin," said senior operations manager Shawn Wood. "That has never hit more home than it does right now, because these people are in our backyard. These are our frontline defenders and it feels really good to help keep them safe."
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