Drones: An Ally during COVID-19

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Drones_An Ally during COVID-19

We enter yet another week of lockdown. We’ve seen people come up with innovative methods to communicate with each other while practicing social distancing. A viral video showed a man from Brooklyn asking out a neighbor for a date by attaching his phone number to a drone and sending it across. They even had a virtual date. A man in Cyprus walked his dog using his drone. Cute stories like this from around the world do provide a little respite during these uncertain times. Not only do these drones help people, they also help governments in deliveries and surveillance. This post will talk about how drones are a helpful ally during COVID-19.

Drones for Delivery and Surveillance

Different countries have initiated lockdown and enforced social distancing so that they can stop the spreading of Coronavirus. Authorities have tried to enforce lockdown in most places. However, there are instances where people still roam around. Drones have come in handy in helping authorities make lockdown related announcements and to monitor situations in congested parts of cities. With the help of drone surveillance, authorities can now deploy resources quickly and manage situations in real time. They can also receive live feed in control rooms even during night time and also from areas where there are no street lights.

Drone startups around the world are teaming up with authorities to provide services like disinfection of contaminated areas, deliver medical supplies and test kits, and manage crowds. Countries like China, India, Spain, Malaysia, UAE, Italy, UK, etc are using drones to tackle this emergency situation.

We are, by now, aware that the virus spreads through respiratory droplets and can also spread by touching any contaminated surfaces. Spraying disinfectants help reduce this transfer. Countries like China have used retrofitted agricultural drones to spray disinfectants and some have attached thermal imaging technology so that people’s temperatures can be taken. This helps in mitigating the spread of Coronavirus. Drones are also used to deliver medical supplies and other essentials to avoid unnecessary human contact. They have also helped speed up feedback for critical tests for healthcare professionals.

Regulations for Drone usage

We know that drones can fall out of the sky and that GPS systems might not be as great as we want to believe. Nobody would want a drone crashing down in a densely populated place, especially during this time. There are strict regulations for drone usage in most of the countries. Drones need to be piloted or they should atleast have a human pilot as backup and should be flown within the line of sight of that pilot. There are regulations set in place to limit drone usage in densely populated areas and uncontrolled areas and areas where there is less visibility due to weather conditions.

Drones should be equipped with technology that will mitigate the risk of accidents by sensing and avoiding collisions. The right sensor technology needs to be chosen as optical cameras are not helpful during night or areas where the visibility is low. Care needs to be taken to ensure that obstacles like power lines and wire fences are avoided. Authorities need to take measures to set operational guidance technical specifications so that everything is communicated to local authorities and that all drone operations are conducted in a safe and scientific manner.

Conclusion

A safe drone usage will be a helpful ally during these hard times when we battle the virus. Delivery of medical supplies, test kits, disinfecting cities, making public announcements, sensing temperatures of people, etc are some ways in which drones can help us in tackling the COVID-19 situation. However, we hope that these technologies will not be misused in the future after we overcome this pandemic and that authorities take measures to ensure the safe usage of this technology.

Surveillance does come with privacy issues. With technology advancing fast and authorities significantly experimenting with it because of the pandemic, we might see consumer drone delivery become popular in the future. At the moment, we need all the help we can get to overcome COVID-19 and we are seeing technology companies doing their bit for the same. Let’s hope that we keep in mind the lessons learnt during these experimentations we are doing to help protect the world during a health crisis

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