Battling COVID-19: Three Ways Drones Can Support Emergency Response

COVID-19 Drone operations

Combatting a pandemic like COVID-19 requires a drastic response and the ability to act quickly. Given the impact the virus has had across the globe, local authorities and political leaders are taking severe measures to ensure a lower rate of transmission.

In times like this, it is imperative to look beyond the conventional methods of detection, containment, and treatment we’ve traditionally used in public health crises. As we’ve seen in the last few weeks, technological advancements in fields such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, and 3D printing can help enhance our current capabilities and get ahead of the outbreak. Healthcare professionals and technologists across the globe are coming together to crowdsource these solutions. An Italian start-up recently 3D-printed 100 valves to connect respirators to oxygen masks, while Shenzhen-based Pudu Technology is using robots to transport medical supplies inside hospitals.

As said by Dr. Alain Labrique, Director of Global Health Initiatives at Johns Hopkins University: “The connectivity we have today gives us ammunition to fight this pandemic in ways we never previously thought possible.”

At SkyGrid, we believe drone technology can also provide a solution to many of the challenges we’re facing today and will continue to face in the months to come. We’ll explore how incorporating drones into emergency response plans can help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Disinfecting Outdoor Surfaces

Research suggests the coronavirus can live on plastic and stainless-steel surfaces for up to three days. It can also linger in aerosols – tiny droplets in the air – for three hours. However, at a time when many businesses are already struggling, ongoing disinfection can be very costly and labor-intensive, particularly when you consider large sporting arenas, college campuses, playgrounds, parks, outdoor shopping malls, and event venues. It will require a massive effort to keep surfaces clean and prevent dangerous spikes in new cases, especially as children, students, and professionals begin returning to their normal routines.

Disinfectant spray distributed by drones can provide a more efficient, cost-effective solution to sanitize large outdoor surfaces. This approach can help significantly reduce transmission of the virus via contaminated surfaces and respiratory droplets.

Delivering Tests and Critical Supplies

Another challenge during this pandemic has been access to testing and supplies, including everything from respirator masks to hand sanitizer. Companies like Abbot Laboratories and Everlywell are expected to enable millions of COVID-19 tests, including at home test kits. However, we’re still faced with the challenge of distributing tests and supplies without further spreading the virus and overwhelming our healthcare system.

Delivering test kits, blood samples, and urgent medical supplies by drone can help support widespread distribution while also reducing unnecessary human contact. As we’re already seeing in China, drones can cut delivery times of medical supplies by more than half.

Ensuring Compliance with Local Restrictions  

As difficult as it is, it’s become evident that social distancing is critical to slow the spread of the coronavirus and allows hospitals to readily care for infected patients over time. From a province in China to the entire nation of Italy, lockdowns have been mandated around the world as new cases soar. In the US, millions of people have been ordered by local officials to stay home, closing schools and all non-essential businesses in several cities. Unfortunately, as the number of confirmed cases continue to rise, more cities—and even entire nations—will need to enforce lockdowns and strict regulations to flatten the curve. The challenge is enforcing these restrictions.

Equipped with loudspeakers and surveillance features, drones can help ensure local compliance by monitoring public areas, such as parks, beaches, and city centers, and enforcing lockdown measures.

What’s required to turn these solutions into a reality?

In the U.S., drone operators are required to register their drones with the FAA, follow Part 107 regulations, and obtain airspace authorization. Drone operators are also responsible for safely navigating the airspace, which is easier said than done. Operators are expected to plan their flight path, monitor their drone’s performance, and maintain separation from other aircraft and obstacles. That’s why many organizations look to SkyGrid for support.

Our aerial operating system provides airspace awareness, flight operations, and fleet management in one easy to use solution. This system is fueled by advanced airspace intelligence, such as aircraft traffic, flight restrictions, obstacle data, and hyper-local weather data, to enable safer drone operations. We’re also powering our system with next-gen technologies like AI and blockchain. These technologies are critical to generate the optimal flight paths, avoid hazards in-flight, and ensure compliance with the airspace rules and regulations.

Ultimately, we believe drones can have a major impact in the fight against COVID-19. SkyGrid is committed to powering drone operations that can help support businesses, authorities, and first responders during this difficult time.

Contact us to learn how we can help.