Many countries and their local authorities are using drones to fight the spread of Coronavirus. There are multiple instances of the use of these small and micro Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to disperse crowds, enforce lockdown and even spot individuals with above-average body temperature.
Let’s, for a moment, put this in historical context. Humanity has faced and overcome multiple challenges in the past. In every scenario, their resilience and intelligence have turned their tools at hand into critical advantages. Adversity has always given rise to inspiring examples of fortitude and innovation.
This is, once again, seen with the use of drones. Around the world, police officials are using drones to augment the reach and efficiencies of their personnel.
Challenges with Covid-19 related lockdown
The WHO has categorized Covid-19 as a pandemic. This is parallel to the current scenario wherein 20% of the global population is under lockdown. Social distancing has been identified as a core necessity and the most potent weapon in the fight against coronavirus.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing travel restrictions and lockdowns have pushed open some inherent challenges.
i. Lack of situational awareness for authorities and citizens alike
ii. Cases of individuals ignoring the lockdown for unessential requirements
iii. Spread of misinformation and fake news
iv. Identification of at-risk individuals (for example – running a high body temperature) in open areas
There have been multiple direct approaches to overcome these challenges. However, there were still multiple occurrences of panic buying, people fleeing to their home-cities in a hurry, and even (at the opposite end of the anxiety scale) people totally flaunting travel restrictions. Central and local authorities, along with official news portals, have been working to fix this.
Drone used around the world to help fight coronavirus
Some authorities in California are considering the use of drones to reach and direct vulnerable homeless people during the current crisis. Similar efforts were undertaken by multiple countries including Italy, UAE and China.
Most countries facing lockdowns have kept their essential services active. Although they have prioritized their activities, the practically gargantuan task of regular surveillance of multiple areas has put a strain on their available resources.
Drones, here, help with expanding the coverage and reach of the beat patrol or on-location authorities. A small drone can improve the efficiency of a patrolling officer by 10x. Drones are the ideal force multiplier for such emergency forces.
Drones can move autonomously through pre-defined waypoints. This ensures regular and timely surveillance of multiple blocks. The resources, hence freed, can be utilized for other priority activities.
Live surveillance with drones can help spot any anomaly or unusual activity. Here, as the information is immediately available to the authorities the response or turnaround time is minimal.
Safety of on-ground forces
Drones ensure social distancing for the active ground forces. The police and emergency response teams can utilize drones to manage multiple situations including immediate response or simple information dispersal. This would keep them away from potentially contracting Covid-19 due to mere proximity to an infected person.
These are a few immediate benefits of drone use by the authorities during the current lockdowns. To add-on to this, companies like ideaForge manufacture drones that are light-weight and easy to carry, even in a backpack (this includes the entire Ground Control Station). The drones can be set up and deployed with its Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) from anywhere at any time, night or day.
Drone applications during the Covid-19 pandemic
Let’s look at some key drone applications in managing and sustaining the ‘social distancing’ in our communities. India, UK, Italy, France, China and the US are in partial or complete lockdown. This requires continuous ground-level control and vigilance.
Security and surveillance
A lockdown, or even a global-level alert, is unprecedented for recent times. Not in a few generations have there been such an integrated international occurrence. Every government, each on-ground official and every citizen are in unknown territory.
It is critical to have a high level of situational awareness for all stakeholders in any active lockdown. Drones help with improving this with live surveillance and reporting to ensure sustainable security standards in each district. Authorities can have timely insights about the status of each street from a central operational base. They can ensure that the essential services perform unhindered using live data about stores and goods movement.
Communication through speakers
Drones can carry speakers as payloads and spread awareness to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 among the public. As we have seen in the past few weeks, and countless times before, lack of information adds fuel to panic. Drones can help spread the right message across blocks within the hour.
Preventing theft and unlawful activities
Drone-led regular and live surveillance helps the police and authorities keep abreast with all local activities. They are 10x more efficient than normal beat patrolling. Drones can easily spot any untoward incident of theft or vandalism and act on the same immediately. Law and order, within a lockdown, is akin to collective peace of mind. These drones can help deliver the same.
Crowd monitoring with drones
Drones are the ideal partner for local authorities when it comes to diligent crowd monitoring. You might have seen multiple scenes of panic buying or unnecessary congregation of people at random spots. Police or emergency services actively disperse these crowds. But they can’t be everywhere. They need the crowd monitoring capabilities of drones to help them with enforcing the lockdown directives.
Drones utilize high resolution visuals and advanced algorithms to find out the crowd density of a location within seconds. Live surveillance can spot such crowds and incite immediate action by local authorities.
There have been multiple instances where law enforcement officials have utilized drones to engage with the individuals on the roads. The speaker (payload) carried by the drone sends out targeted messages to the people, perhaps to ask them to move back to their houses. Officials from China’s city of Taizhou, in the Jiangsu province, used drones to directly call out people for not wearing masks or for roaming in the park.
Lockdown/ Curfew enforcement
Many cities and some countries have enforced complete lockdown, as we have covered earlier. This can be a difficult transition in terms of actual enforcement. Authorities can use drones to quickly spread the message to multiple blocks and zones. They can also undertake live and regular surveillance of the areas to ensure that people aren’t breaking protocol and moving outside their houses (without an urgent purpose).
Body temperature scanning
Some authorities are using drones to scan the body temperature of people on the streets or in open areas. Drones can be equipped with high-resolution thermal cameras. These camera sensors can be calibrated to the fine temperature readings of a human body. The drones can then spot people with elevated body temperature, in real-time. The local emergency services can then pursue the case and check the sighting (person) for further confirmation.
Drone Delivery and Spraying
Delivery of medical or essential supplies
Local authorities prioritize uninterrupted logistics movement of food, essential supplies and medical supplies. Drones can help ensure that even the last mile doesn’t get held up. These lightweight and small drones can easily carry essential medical goods like masks or sanitizers to hospitals or care units. They can even have the same delivered (even food) to quarantined people.
Drones can help spray disinfectants in multiple areas. Direct or manual disinfecting may put people within proximity of the virus. It’s important that the disinfection processes proceed without any undue risk and hence, the implied social distancing with the use of drones is the right way to go. Moreover, drones can help disinfect more area in less time as compared to manual processes.
As a community, we need to step-up our will and our endeavour to push ahead. ideaForge has been at the forefront of drone-tech advancements for over a decade. It has pioneered multiple innovations that have eventually become benchmarks in the industry.
Even in the past, ideaForge drones have been quintessential in disaster management and search and rescue. These drones have been process and protocol enablers for crowd management and quick information disbursal.
The drones improve the visual coverage of beat patrols and on-ground officials 25x. This improves their alertness and situation readiness multi-fold. Furthermore, the response time of ideaForge drones are 1.8x (or 44.46%) faster than ambulances (or emergency vehicles).
ideaForge drones can infuse up to 40% cost-benefit for the authorities (with respect to beat patrolling) and ensure that the on-ground personnel aren’t overburdened at any time.
‘Together we can’, is not a cliché. It’s true. We are at a point where we have the wherewithal in terms of intelligence and technology to help us fight even and get over the toughest situations. Drones, which are a tech-evolution led by humans, have become an important tool in not just improving our livelihoods but also improving the effectiveness of our services. That’s why we should keep calm and let our intelligence direct us. It has led us till here, it can lead us ahead.