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Here’s how drones help fight the coronavirus

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Jenna Delport
Jenna Delport
I’m a tech writer, world traveller, avocado-eater and dog lover, not always in that order.

Since emerging in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, the coronavirus has spread around the world. As of February 2020, the death toll within mainland China exceeded 1,113, with 44,563 confirmed cases.

As the outbreak grew, so did public questions and concerns. To help address those fears and resolve the crisis, public safety officials in China explored how to use new technologies — like drones.

Disinfecting Public Spaces with Drones

Together with agricultural technology think tanks, Chinese tech company, DJI has been working to fight the disease. On February 4, the company pledged almost US $1.5 million in aid to help contain the outbreak. It has also adapted a series of agricultural spraying drones to spray disinfectant in potentially affected areas.

Drones can dramatically improve how China attempts to kill the virus in public areas: They can cover far more ground than traditional methods while reducing risk to workers who would otherwise spend more time potentially exposed to both the virus and the disinfectant.

DJI has sprayed disinfectant in over 3 million square meters in Shenzhen. The company is also helping 1,000 counties in China to adopt the spraying method. Target areas include factories, residential areas, hospitals, and waste treatment plants. In total, this covers 600 million square meters across the country so far. With this solution, spraying efficiency can be 50 times faster than traditional methods.

“Assisting on the containment of a disease, while ensuring safety to personnel, was very difficult to do in the past,” says Romeo Durscher, Senior Director of Public Safety Integration at DJI. “This was a complete grassroots movement. Users inspired us to take action, and it was worth the effort. It embodies the DJI spirit, where anyone with access to these new tools can help improve their environment and help society.”

Using drones in more ways during the outbreak

These past few weeks have given people a chance to discover new ways to curb the spread of corona in China. Loudspeakers were mounted on drones to help disperse public gatherings in crowded places. Drones flew banners advising people on how to learn more about precautions. Thermal cameras on drones were also used to monitor body temperature so medical staff can identify new potential cases.

Drone delivery is another popular topic. The outbreak has kept millions of families in their homes to avoid contact with others. A huge help to these households can come in the form of contactless delivery. Organisations can send food, supplies and medicine to anyone in need. At the same time, avoiding face-to-face contact will cut the risk of infection.

A statement from DJI says, “We are proud to empower these individuals any way we can, and we will continue pushing forward with #DronesForGood to protect emergency responders as well as the public at large. We hope the lessons learned from this crisis will help us use drones, sensors and other cutting-edge solutions even better during future medical, humanitarian, disaster response and relief missions”.

Edited by Jenna Delport
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