Can We Learn From China's COVID-19 Drone Efforts?
Tom Spendlove posted on March 25, 2020 |
Several drone companies worked to help with crowd control, logistics and combatting virus spread.

As the world feels the impact of the COVID-19 virus, some of the lessons that emergency networks in Europe and North America can follow from China revolve around drones. In early February, Terra Drone’s company, Antwork, made its first medical delivery between Xinchang County’s People’s Hospital and the county’s Disease Center. Antwork called its effort part of the “urban air transportation channel” and worked to move samples and personal protective equipment while also helping to minimize personal contact.

MMCUAV also joined the drone activities. The company said that 200 employees were assigned to using drones to fight the spread of the virus and more than 100 drones were deployed in Shanghai, Ghangzhou, Foshan and Zhaoqing. MMC has the advantage of owning and controlling all aspects of the production chain for its UAVs, which helped eliminate concerns of component shortages or shipment issues. Crowd control was aided using aerial camera drones searching for people without masks and thermal imaging camera UAVs to assist in evacuations. Some drones also took over the task of scheduled disinfection of surfaces in places that were potentially harboring the virus.

JD worked to fight the spread of infection using its pre-existing supply chains and product centers to deliver consumer goods without physical contact. Autonomous robots were deployed to places where health care or emergency workers needed aid or consumer goods, and drones were deployed to areas cut off due to quarantine. Delivery drones could also be outfitted with tanks and used to spread disinfectant over heavy traffic areas.

One of the takeaways from these stories is the idea that methods—supply chains, logistics, delivery networks, drone technologies, etc.—currently in place can be used in novel ways to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Europe and the Americas, requiring only minor tweaks. Drone companies already involved in emergency response are well-suited to take on virus outbreak issues, and engineers from many sectors can help the effort.

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