Next time you see a drone fly by, it might be looking for evidence of coronavirus. Our arsenal of weapons to combat the deadly COVID-19 outbreak now has a new addition: an infection-identifying "pandemic drone."

The University of South Australia (UniSA) and Canada-based drone technology specialist Draganfly Inc have teamed up to develop a "pandemic drone" that uses special sensors and computer vision to identify people with infectious respiratory diseases, as reported by New Atlas.

Infection-identifying 'Pandemic Drone'

drone
Pixabay

One of the major challenges of containing a pandemic like the COVID-19 virus is identifying who's infected and how widespread the disease is. One way to go about this is to look for people showing symptoms of the virus but combing through millions of people and having them queue up to have their temperatures checked is not only impractical but also time-consuming.

Therefore, a UniSA team led by Defence Chair of Sensor Systems Professor Javaan Chahl have designed a drone that makes it possible to detect diseases remotely.

Where can it be used?

Wuhan Coronavirus
Twitter / Imran Iftikhar

The pandemic drone is capable of monitoring an individual's vitals including their body temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate. In addition, it can also detect the person's sneeze or cough. The drone can successfully identify diseases in large crowds, including at airports, offices, cruise ships as well as in old-age/retirement homes.

Chahl points out that the detection rate isn't perfect but it can serve as a practical tool to identify the presence of a contagious disease in a crowd. "Now, shockingly, we see a need for its use immediately, to help save lives in the biggest health catastrophe the world has experienced in the past 100 years," says Chahl.

UniSA announced that the objective is to "immediately start integrating commercial, medical and government customers," but did not mention any other details about the roll-out of the technology. Since, countries like France and Spain are already using drones to ensure people stay indoors amid lockdowns, this disease-identifying drone technology could prove to be an effective tool in helping us contain the spread of coronavirus. In addition to identifying infections, the technology also has other applications like monitoring baby incubators in hospitals or in dealing with war zones and natural disasters.