Pandemic drones that can detect fevers and coughing will soon take to the sky

Drones are being increasingly called into action during the COVID-19 crisis, primarily as surveillance tools and mobile speakers to remind people about the importance of lockdown. But there are other use-cases for drones, too. Last month, Digital Trends wrote about how Draganfly, one of the longest-serving commercial drone companies, was working on technology to use drones in the coronavirus pandemic — by utilizing an onboard thermal sensor and smart computer vision technology to allow them to make potential diagnoses from a distance. This could make it more efficient to take temperature readings than the current method of employing devices like handheld infrared thermometers.

On Thursday, March 26, Draganfly announced that it has been chosen and agreed a deal to deploy its COVID-19-sensing drones in Australia. Working with the Australian Department of Defense and the University of South Australia, the Draganfly deployment will see it using its “pandemic drones” to remotely monitor and detect people with infectious and respiratory conditions to help stop the further spread of the disease in Australia. The project has an initial budget of $1.5 million.

Using their onboard tech, the drones are capable of monitoring fever-associated temperature, heart and respiratory rates from a distance, as well as detecting people sneezing and coughing in crowds or places where groups of people may work or congregate.

“The technology itself has not changed in the last month (note: since we published our article on the tech),” Cameron Chell, CEO of Draganfly, told Digital Trends. “But what has changed is our ability to start to talk about the specifics of where and how it was developed as well as its capabilities.”

Chell noted that the drones will be deployed at various hotspots. “Getting the tech into areas where the most amount of detection is currently required is the priority,” he said.

It’s not clear exactly when Draganfly’s drones will be taking to the sky for this purpose. However, given how pressing this unfolding situation is, the sooner this can be done, the better.

In the meantime, Chell said that the company has received plenty of other inquiries about its pandemic drones. “It seems that every market and industry that has been affected by this pandemic has interest at some level,” he said.

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