The concept of “social distancing,” in the face of the pandemic, is racing around the world. This signals a time for cities and governments to embrace drone delivery -- not just for speed and convenience, but to protect citizens' most vulnerable members.
Drones originally designed to spray pesticides for agricultural applications were adapted in China to spray disinfecting chemicals in some public spaces and on epidemic prevention vehicles traveling between impacted areas. (Coronavirus is mainly transmitted via respiratory droplets and can also spread by touching contaminated surfaces. Disinfectant spray helps reduce these transmission mechanisms.)
The drone delivery company JD worked with government stakeholders to dramatically increase service areas to bring supplies to quarantined and isolated areas. JD explains that the drones drop parcels at a fixed point, allowing customers to pick them up without human-to-human contact – which minimizes the risk for both the courier and the customer.
In Spain, drones were used to alert people to the need to shelter in place. Drones have also been used for surveillance of large groups of people. Soaring over crowds, these devices can pinpoint if anyone is in need of medical attention. Of course, this is another method that is allowing medical employees to scan at a distance. Some drones are even equipped with infrared thermometers to detect body temperatures. A high temperature can mean that the person has the coronavirus, yet this method is far from foolproof.
Read how the People's Republic of China is using drones in its response.