This is an airplane vacuum cleaner I designed together with Sodexo to create a more sustainable working environment for professional cleaners.

Sodexo is a global company who provides cleaning services on airplanes among many other things. Together with their cleaning staff at Copenhagen Airport, I designed a vacuum cleaner with the purpose of creating a more sustainable working environment.

The vacuum cleaner was designed as my thesis project at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts 2018




Lower back

Problem background


This project focuses on vacuum cleaning in airplanes. Previous research, on site observations and interviews with the professional cleaners at Sodexo, pointed to this task as the most critical in terms of ergonomic issues.


Ergonomic analyses of the task of vacuum cleaning with REBA (Rapid Entire Body Assessment) and RULA (Rapid Upper Limbs Assessment), indicated that there are a lot of awkward postures related to vacuum cleaning.


The most critical issue is the repetitiveness of bending the back and neck. The analyses also showed issues with strain and load on the wrists and shoulders. Even though most of the movements are not carried out under heavy load, the cleaners are under risk of injuries and muskoskeletal diseases because of the repetitiveness. The scoring of the analysis suggests an immediate change of the task should be made due to very high risk of injuries and diseases.

A straight extension pipe causes cleaners to bend their backs.

The straight extension pipe hits the back rest before fully reaching the floor under the seat.

To reach under the seat the extension pipe has to be angled, which causes the cleaners to bend their backs.

To reach crevices the cleaner have to remove the extension pipe and bend the back.

The mouthpiece can’t come close enough to reach dirt in crevices close to seat connection.

The mouthpiece is too thick to fit under the first class seat.

Navigating the mouthpiece around objects puts strain on wrists and shoulders.

The many connection points between the seats make it difficult to navigate the mouthpiece.


The stiffness of the hose puts strain on the wrist when vacuuming between the seats.

The cleaner have to place the vacuum cleaner in between the seat to not cause traffic in the aisle and slows down other cleaning tasks.

The vacuum cleaner has to easily fit between the seat to clear the aisle for others to pass.


The vacuum cleaner gets stuck in the aisle, damaging the interior of the plane and making work more difficult.

Managing the cord is time consuming, and it is a cause of accidents and unnecessary work.

Other tasks are made difficult because trolleys get stuck on the cord.


The cord adds an extra risk for accident as it can cause people to trip over it.

The cord has to be handled by hand which takes time and adds extra, uncomfortable, work.

AISLE - A cordless vacuum cleaner designed to eliminate ergonomic problems for professional cleaners.

The curved extension pipe makes it possible to reach under the seat without bending the back. The continuous radius of the curve makes it possible to adjust to any height.

The handle gives the wrist extra leverage to manoeuvre the hose. The grip allows the wrist to be in a neutral angle to relieve it from strain.


The interface for the battery life is easy to read from its position on top of the handle.


The power can be turned on/off and adjusted in strength by turning the aluminium wheel.

The mouthpiece easily fits under the seats and allows the extension pipe to be rotated in 360 degrees.


The form of the mouthpiece allows the cleaner to reach dirt under first class seats without removing the extension pipe.

The shape and size of the body makes it easy to navigate the vacuum cleaner in between the seats and allow people to pass through the aisle.

The rotating outer shell enables the vacuum cleaner to rotate itself free when it gets stuck in a seat. This feature lowers the vacuum’s impact on the interior of the plane.

The vacuum cleaner is turned on/off by rotating the main switch. The switch also unlocks the hatch for changing the battery, the bag and the filter.

The battery is attached to the lid and can be changed by rotating it free. While the lid is unlocked the bag and filter are easily accessible to be changed.

1. Lid, main switch and lock

2. Battery

3. Outer shell, rotates independently of the other parts

4. Inner shell, connects the handle and battery to the motor

5. HEPA - filter

6. Fan

7. Sealing

8. Motor

9. Lower body, connects the hose to the body

10. Wheels, rotate in every direction


11. Ergonomic handle

12. Interface, battery life and power control

13. Curved extension pipe, adjustable

14. Mouthpiece















Vacuum cleaning an airplane


The vacuum cleaning is one of the last tasks performed in the cleaning process mostly because it limits movement in the aisles. Two vacuum cleaners are loaded on to the airplane in the back and the aisles are cleaned in parallel.  Sometimes the task is divided by four people, switching half ways. Normally a cleaner would vacuum one to two aisles per day. It is one of the most uncomfortable and unwanted tasks to do during the day.

Simulating the environment to ideate and test prototypes


A simulate environment of the airplane interior was made to test ideas and act as a creative space to generate new ideas. The ideas was also taken in participation with the staff at the airport. This proved to be a valuable tool in the development and a first try of prototypes

Straight handle

Curved handle

Rough prototyping


The ideas were first tested in a rough way and evaluated based on REBA and RULA assessments. The initial prototypes was made to test the principle of the idea. The above pictures show the difference between a straight pipe and a pipe with a curve.

Developing the idea in more detail


The idea was developed further in a digital simulation of the airplane cabin. The simulation was modelled after the real measurements which gave a more precise way of shaping the handle.

Refined prototyping test in the real situation


A more refined functional prototype was made to test the idea in the real situation. While doing the vacuum cleaning the staff was asked to try vacuuming with the new handle. The analysis and discussions with the staff showed that both the ergonomic posture improved a lot and the handling and experience of vacuuming was great.

Improving the idea based on the feedack


The curve was improved by making the curve into a radius. This would allow the handle to increase the handling and also prevent the pipe from clogging. A continuous curve also allows the handle to be adjustable at a bigger rate then the previous model.

Ideating ideas for the grip


Another part of the process was sketching ideas. Sketching proved to be valuable, as it documented, explored forms and expressions as well as communicating with others.

Prototyping the grip


By trying different ways of connecting the hose to the handle and grip the most ergonomic solution could be obtained. By placing the connection of the hose further down on the handle creates less strain for the wrist to move the hose.

Developing the mouthpiece


The features of the vacuum cleaner was developed in with the input of the cleaners, who influenced and discussed ideas as the process developed.

Reaching under the seat


The form of the mouthpiece was developed to reach the dirt under the first class seat while being able to go under the lowest pint of the economy seat as well. This prevent the cleaner from having to remove the mouthpiece and extension pipe and bend down to reach the dirt.

Developing the form


An important method for developing the expression and detailed design was to print 1:1 scale views of the parts and by juxtaposing small and bigger transformation, the form could be sculpted into communicating the abilities of the feature.

Creating paper models of the different forms was a good tool to analyse and understand the 3D shape of the feature. The spatial relations with the environment could also be investigated in this way

Prototyping the form


A more detailed prototype of the shape of the body was made to get a better understanding of the 3D form and how the vacuum cleaner would look like in the environment.                 2018