Drones fight coronavirus in Wuhan

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With the use of drones, disinfectant spraying efficiency can be 50 times faster than traditional methods.
With the use of drones, disinfectant spraying efficiency can be 50 times faster than traditional methods.

DJI, manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs,) has invested $1.5 million in a project aimed athelping to fight the coronavirus using drones.

Drones are increasingly offering the healthcare industry a new disinfecting technique, with advantages like high-efficiency, wide coverage and reduced infection risks.

Since emerging in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, the COVID-19 virus has spread around the world, claiming the lives of over 2 247 people, with a current infection rate of 76 738. As of 12 February, the death toll within mainland China exceeded 1 113, with 44 563 confirmed cases.

To help address the increase in the infection rate and resolve the crisis, public safety officials in China have been exploring how to use new technologies ‒ and DJI has stepped up to that challenge with drones.

In the first week of February, the drone-maker pledged funds to help contain the outbreak by adapting its Agras series of agricultural spraying drones to spray disinfectant in potentially affected areas within the city of Wuhan.

After rounds of research and testing, teams developed best practices for spraying a chlorine or ethyl alcohol-based disinfectant from the air.

The company says spayed areas so far include factories, residential areas and hospitals, and it has covered more than 600 million square metres and is doing this 50 times faster than traditional methods.

The concentration of the disinfectant as well as flight guidelines can be modified for different circumstances, such as whether an area is known to be infected or not.

“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 the access to these new tools can help improve their environment and help society.”

With this method, spraying efficiency can be 50 times faster than traditional methods, and in a crisis where time plays a critical role, this is great news, notes Durscher.

DJI’s global operations span across the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa, and its products include drones used for applications in filmmaking, construction, inspection, emergency response, agriculture, conservation and other industries.

The company says it is also helping 1 000 counties in China to adopt the spraying method.

These past few weeks have given the Chinese government, ICT and health officials a chance to discover new ways to curb the spread of COVID-19 in China.

Some drone companies used loudspeakers, mounted on drones, to help disperse public gatherings in crowded places. Some used drones to fly banners, advising people 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.

Experts are also looking at drone delivery methods for household items, with the outbreak keeping millions of families in their homes to avoid contact with others.

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