COVID-19 continues to spread. With the need for physical distancing drones and robots are finding new applications. Various drones, from small to large, are being used for a vast array of applications, proving that public and private organizations can incorporate drones as a tool for planning and preparation for similar situations in future.
Drone Applications in a Pandemic
- Drone Disinfection: Agricultural drones designed to spray pesticides are being repurposed to dispense disinfectant through an aerial spray.
- XAG Technology, DJI, Chinese authorities and other agencies, jointly released the operational guidelines and conducted successful aerial spraying operations with over 2,600 drones covering an area of 902 million square meters in China’s 20 provinces.
- Corona Combat Drone (CCD) running disinfection drives in several areas in Delhi, India with collaboration with the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC).
- Indore City in India used drones which can carry 16 litres of disinfectant and spray an area of between 4-7 miles in 30 minutes.
- Spain’s military used DJI’s AGRAS MG-1.
- South Korea’s city Daegu used drones loaded with around 2.5 gallons of disinfectant capable of spraying an area of up to 105,000 square feet in 10 to 12 minutes.
- Drone delivery can be used in logistics of medical supplies, testing samples and results. Further, drone deliveries can be used for consumer essential goods, especially in isolated areas. It helps maintain physical distancing and saves time compared to road transportation. Some examples include:
- Antwork, a group company of TerraDrone, carried medical samples and other essential materials in Xinchang, China when the city was struggling with the virus.
- Alphabet’s drone delivery company Wing has made over 1,000 deliveries in the last two weeks of March by partnering with local shops especially in Virginia, Finland, and Australia.
- Zipline is acting as a centralized distribution network for COVID-19 supplies in Ghana and Rwanda. Zipline is planning to deploy in the US and India.
- Ireland is planning its medical drone delivery service. Manna Aero will begin trials in the central Irish town of Moneygall, which can make 100 deliveries per day, per drone.
- Drone surveillance and monitoring is one of the key applications in military operations. Its adoption at the civilian level was at the nascent stage. However, in the current crisis, drones can be used for surveillance, public announcements, monitoring and guiding local law enforcement. Further, the mounted camera can be calibrated as infrared cameras to measure body temperature.
- China implemented Drone surveillance and broadcast special instructions for safeguarding against coronavirus. Further, these drones are equipped with QR code placards that could be scanned to register health information.
- Kazakhstan used a drone with infrared sensors, for patrolling and monitoring illegal border movement to slow the spread of coronavirus infections. These drones are provided by the Terra Drone group company, KazUAV.
- In India, Gujarat and Kerala Police deployed 200 and 500 drones respectively. Further highly populated cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata police also deployed a drone for mass surveillance and monitoring.
- Several police forces in the UK used drones to monitor people breaking rules surrounding visiting national parks. The drone footage was used to highlight correct and incorrect behaviours.
Drone adoption had been proceeding, but somewhat more slowly than initially expected due to a variety of factors including regulatory inconsistencies, and security and privacy concerns. However, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many of these concerns have been pushed aside compared to the need to protect human lives. Drones are one of the few industries where the COVID-19 is positively affected by boosting the adoption rate. Robots are also emerging with new use cases in this pandemic. We will dive into this in a future blog.