How drones are helping to fight the Coronavirus crisis

Whilst drones being used to help get through the coronavirus pandemic, they are still being used for other purposes as companies get used to their “new normal” and try to get their work done.
Blogs, June 1, 2020

As countries across the world remain in lock down, drones are proving their worth once again as a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19.

While the pandemic has made drones more visible and accelerated already-existing trends, the same challenges companies have always faced are still a factor, including privacy issues, compliance with regulations, drone traffic management and safety, among others.

When implementing a drone program it’s important to always come back to the central question: “What is the problem you need to solve, and is an unmanned system the right tool for the job?”

Drones are still being used outside of the pandemic

Whilst drones being used to help get through the coronavirus pandemic, they are still being used for other purposes as companies get used to their “new normal” and try to get their work done. In fact, many in the drone industry say that their workload has remained steady, if not slightly increased, since much drone work can be done remotely or in situations where there is no need for social distancing.

For example, the construction industry is considered an essential workplace and drones are being used to capture data for progress reports. They are also being used for news to showcase current affairs. Unmanned systems continue to help with public safety too, as we have shared in previous blogs, including search and rescue, inspections and supervision.

4 uses for drones in the Coronavirus pandemic

Meanwhile, here are four innovative ways that countries and states are utilising drones to protect people during this worldwide pandemic.

1. China uses drones to deliver medical supplies

China is slowly easing up on its strict lockdown since the worst of the virus seems to have passed. But there are still sick people who need care, and the government is concerned about a potential resurgence as people start to gather in groups again. To aid the healthcare system, Xinchang county in China is working with a Japanese company called TerraDrone that can seamlessly deliver medical supplies between various local hubs. The delivery system is perfect for the circumstances since it involves minimal human contact, allows for quick turnaround times, and frees up medical staff for other critical needs.

This is a really powerful application, as drone delivery of critical medical supplies in a rapid fashion can save lives, particularly at a time when the healthcare systems in many countries are over-stressed.

2. France uses drones to enforce lockdown measures

As the Coronavirus death toll in France approaches 2000 people, the country is on full lockdown. The government started the lockdown to keep the virus from spreading and inevitably claiming more lives. As part of the prevention measures, people have to stay in their homes apart from going out for essential items, like food or medical care.

Police and military are doing their best to enforce the lockdown, but they’re relying on drone surveillance of public areas to ensure that people are adhering to the rules. Drones are currently flying over the banks of the River Seine to check for people who shouldn’t be outside.

There are important questions with this application: is the use of drones in this manner consistent with the privacy regulations applicable in many western countries? Will the public accept the use of drones in such an intrusive manner, or will they impact on the reputation of the police forces using them? Issues such as these should be considered as part of the implementation of any drone program, especially those involved in public safety.

3. California considers drones for communication with homeless population

In San Diego, California, local police are testing out the idea of using drones to pass on vital health information to the homeless population. With limited access to smartphones, televisions, or the radio, officials in the state are concerned that vulnerable people aren’t fully aware of the Coronavirus or the danger of congregating in groups.

This experimental way of transmitting information involves two drones that are fitted with cameras and speakers. The drones will fly over homeless populations and share information and resources to help them understand the gravity of the pandemic.

There are important factors to consider in this application, too, largely related to safety. Whilst the use of drones in this case reduces social contact, and hence reduces the risk of passing the virus on to vulnerable populations, because it involves flight over people this must be balanced against the possible risk of injury in the event that the drone suffers an uncontrolled descent. The balance of risk should always be carefully considered when implementing a drone program.

4. South Korea uses drones to spray disinfectant

The Coronavirus can live on various types of surfaces for many days at a time. To prevent surface spread, South Korea used drones at the height of its outbreak to spray disinfectant around Daegu City.

A single disinfectant drone can carry roughly 9.5 litres of disinfectant and spray an area of about 9750 square metres. The disinfectant drones helped sanitise large swathes of public areas in a short period of time.

On the surface this looks like a fantastic application for drones. However, if we apply the central question of: “What is the problem you need to solve, and is an unmanned system the right tool for the job?”, we may find that this was not a suitable use of drones. For example, could the same goal have been achieved with less cost or effort by using vehicle mounted sprayers, or back-pack sprays? Was the spraying achieving the desired effect? When implementing a drone program, it is very important to first understand the problem you are trying to solve fully, to make sure that you are solving it in the right way.

Could your organisation benefit from an effective drone program?

Drones are being used for so many applications to help save lives, be more productive and be more efficient. Even if you’re not on the front lines of fighting Coronavirus, there are hundreds of innovative and positive ways to utilise drone technology in your business.

If you would like to know how a drone program can benefit your business, please book a workshop with one of our experts so we can guide you through it. Get in touch with Mirragin today for a consultation at admin@mirragin.com.au.

Alternatively, to find out more about drones and their future in business, subscribe to our podcast.

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