• Milind Raj

Drones: Coronavirus Crisis Changing Minds about Disruptive Technology



This pandemic, the drones are taking a significant role in crisis response systems and emergency management. As communities around the world remain in social lockdown that includes social distancing, drones have become more and more attractive as a means of maintaining usual activities throughout the world.  The all-new concept of medical supply delivery, disinfection of large areas through drones, scooping in complex areas, and monitoring strict social distancing are all currently been given added emphasis due the Coronavirus.  Furthermore, the demand for drone cargo is also rising in the industry due to COVID-19 outbreak.


India became the second Nation in the world to start DRONE use for COVID-19


The COVID-19, a global pandemic that caused more than 3,88,600 deaths and infected more than 2 million people worldwide, makes us rethink how governments, organizations, and societies around the world can work with minimum or without physical contact. Today, the frontline warriors and heroes of the nation are doctors, medical staff, local police, and private security guards and refuse collectors. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, GIS and Mapping, Location Technology, and autonomous machines are playing a growing role in responding to COVID-19 pandemic. However, in this war against this invisible enemy, drones play a key role by helping authorities and people in different ways to prevent further spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Let’s look at how drones are being used effectively to combat COVID-19.


Surveillance:


An important policy for authorities across the globe right now is to prevent the spread of the virus. To ensure they are taking unprecedented measures to reduce people-to-people contact. Most countries took measures like the closure of non-essential public places, ban of mass gatherings, and ensuring a social distancing to limit physical contact.

However, in some areas where individuals are not complying with the restrictions knowingly or unknowingly, or do not know what the latest restrictions are, law enforcing authorities such as the local police or municipal authorities are using drones to monitor people’s movement and break up social gatherings that could pose a risk to society. The introduction of drones at this time of crisis is reducing the risk of getting infected to police officials and other staff since it enables monitoring the vast swathe of the area without physical engagement.

However, the use of drones for surveillance raises a debate about privacy and individual rights on mainstream media as well as social media platforms.



Broadcasting UAS:


In addition to street surveillance, authorities are also using drones to broadcast messages and information about lockdown measures, especially an in the rural area that lacks open communication channels for health information. Drones equipped with loudspeakers are used to make public announcements to keep people indoors, take necessary precautions, make social-distancing, and wear a mask if stepping outside from home. China and many European countries are using drones for broadcasting messages to the public.

A Global Times video on twitter shows a drone hovering over a village in Inner Mongolia, warning old lady with audio in Chinese “Yes grandmother, it’s the drone who is talking to you. You should not go out without wearing a mask. You’d better go home and don’t forget to wash your hands,”


Disinfectant Spraying:


These drones are easy to operate, inexpensive, and can be quickly mobilized, in addition to reducing the risk of health and sanitation workers getting exposed to both the virus and the disinfectant. In addition to China, countries like India, Indonesia, Philippines, Colombia, Chile, and the UAE have successfully used disinfecting drones to control the spread of coronavirus.


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