NEW DELHI: The role of drones, which are being used extensively to keep an eye on people flouting the stay-at-home order or for spraying disinfectant, is likely to increase in battling the spread of novel coronavirus.
A senior official from North Delhi Municipal Corporation said that a pilot project is being carried out to detect people with higher temperature with the help of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) equipped with thermal scanners. Delhi government’s health department is expected to consider scaling up and deployment of the drones in the coming days.
“Infrared thermometers can check temperature of only one person at a time. The pilot project aims to do thermal scanning of a large population. While flying above roads and markets, the drone can catch temperature anomalies in the population below. If the temperature of the skin is above average, then an individual can be selected for additional screening,” the official said.
The drone is equipped with thermal and night vision cameras, disinfectant tank, loudspeaker, spotlight and portable medical box. “The tank of the corona combat drone has a capacity of 10 litres. There is a small box in which we have put essentials and medicines. The drone can cover a straight road of 1.5-2km within 9-12 minutes,” the official explained.
Another official said the drone can detect temperature variation from a height of 20 metres, which can help cover a large area within a short period. He added that in the initial phase, such drones could be deployed in containment zones and their buffer areas.
Officials said once the lockdown was lifted, the technology could be used to identify early onset of novel coronavirus in people by detecting higher body temperature without any direct human intervention. “It will reduce the risk of checking staff getting infected, while also reducing the load of protective equipment used by them,” said the official.
The drone companies and officials have been inspired by China where videos of UAVs monitoring temperature of people in Hubei and Hunan provinces and making public announcements to ensure lockdown have gone viral. Trial runs are being conducted in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and by Trichy Municipal Corporation.
The world over, drones have been deployed during the current pandemic for delivery of foods, medicines, essential items, making public announcements, monitoring curfews and spraying disinfectants.