3 ways China is using drones to fight coronavirus

2020-03-17

3 ways China is using drones to fight coronavirus
In just a few months, Coronavirus has changed how we greet each other, how we work and how our children are educated. It’s also pushing public health authorities to develop new ways to deliver healthcare.

Over the past few months, the Chinese government has been piloting ways to incorporate drones into their response to Coronavirus. These initial experiments may serve as a model for other countries looking to respond to the current health crisis. Longer term, they can provide lessons for how public and private health systems can incorporate drone technology into their planning to mitigate future pandemics.

Here are three areas where drones have been a key tool in responding to COVID-19:


Aerial spray and disinfection

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.)

“Compared with hand spray, drone spray has many advantages in terms of efficiency, consistency," noted Justin Gong, co-founder of agricultural drone company XAG. Depending on the application, drone spray can be fifty times more efficient than people spraying.

To ensure the safety of aerial disinfection operations, XAG Technology, DJI Agriculture, China Agricultural Machinery Distribution Association, China Agricultural University Research Centre for Medical Equipment and Application Technology and other relevant agencies jointly published a series of operational guidance and technical specifications to communicate with local authorities and make sure that all efforts were conducted in a safe and scientific manner.

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Transport of samples

Delivering medical samples by drone can significantly reduce unnecessary human contact throughout the transport cycle. It can also speed feedback for critical tests needed by patients and medical workers.

Testing drone delivery for medical samples began last month, at a time when the virus had already killed 600 people in the country and infected 28,000. Early last February, a drone loaded with medical testing supplies took off from the People's Hospital of Xinchang County, Zhejiang Province and flew to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention located 3 km away. As a result, a journey that would have taken 20 minutes by ground transport took only 6, cutting delivery time by more than half.

This effort required close coordination with a variety of groups and agencies, including the Hangzhou Municipal Government, its health department (and subset healthcare facilities), drone company Antwork, and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to approve routes and ensure proper safety measures were taken. At the peak of the operation, it ran 20 more flights every day.

At the moment of life and death, the air transport network can significantly confine the flow of people, avoid unnecessary physical contact and prevent secondary transmission,” said Lv Yinxiang, Secretary of the Party Committee of the County Peoples Hospital. Medical samples delivered through air can shrink the delivery time…while saving precious field resources.


Consumer drone delivery

Drone delivery of consumer items can ensure that people have access to food and other goods - and make it easier for citizens to keep to recommendations limiting human contact.

Consumer delivery was challenging in parts of China even before the virus thanks to difficult landscapes - like Anxins series of semi-isolated islands. In that village, routine grocery deliveries typically required three modes of transport. Goods were shipped to a main pier, ferried to each island, and then distributed by foot. When counter-virus measures suspended the ferry service, driving along the peninsulas rugged and narrow road could take more than 2 hours in a single trip to cover 100 km.


Drone delivery quickly became a feasible alternative. With the support from the local government, e-commerce company JD deployed its drone team. That team quickly conducted ground surveys, designed flight corridors, requested airspace access permission and conducted final flight tests. In just a few days, several drone delivery corridors were put in place replacing hours-long drives with a 2 km flight that could be completed in just 10 minutes.

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Lessons learned

The coronavirus outbreak in China has led to significant experimentation with many emerging technologies, including drones. While these projects and demonstrations are still in their earliest phases, we can begin to draw some lessons that can be useful to health authorities around the world.

Data needs to be gathered and shared about the efficacy of these applications so health authorities can assess the impact on disease transmission, any cost savings, and service improvements for the overall health system. Currently this data is often considered to be proprietary by companies and sensitive by authorities, but a commitment by authorities to release this information or a trusted neutral party with access to the data could ensure other health systems are able to learn from these experiences.

Drones need to be integrated into planned health responses. As the results from Coronavirus response efforts in China to blood delivery in Rwanda and Ghana to Dengue prevention in Fiji become clearer, we should be able to preplant how drones will be used during disease outbreaks and make appropriate investments rather than relying on ad hoc experimentation.



Coordination between the public and private sector is essential. Drones are subject to strict regulation outside of consumer use and civil aviation authorities need to respond quickly to requests for health applications while preserving the safety of the airspace and those on the ground. Right now, flight requests are being approved on an exceptional basis, but in the future there should be clear regulations put in place that define how to conduct these applications.

The civil aviation authority is working with industry, health officials and security services to put these policies into place. The CAAC unmanned aerial system office leadership stated, Drones are playing key roles in managing the COVID-19 outbreak... It proves that lessons learnt from real world practices are critical for developing a sound regulatory framework whereby the potential of drone technology can be realized.

As the world continues to tackle this crisis, these lessons can reshape how we protect and care for people during health emergencies.




Swoop Aero  The Positive Impact of Engineering

2020-04-03
Swoop Aero The Positive Impact of Engineering
Around the world, demands on the profession and practice of engineering are increasingly shifting to reflect new challenges and expectations fuelled by the pressures of globalisation and global insecurity. The role of an engineer is to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems; helping to save lives and create new technological advancements, which can improve the way we live, the way we engage in society, and the way we respond to global issues.

In the last five years, the global healthcare sector has experienced a technological transformation. Engineers have led this movement in order to develop and improve infrastructural links, healthcare facilities, and services that may support dramatic improvements to patient wellbeing, and the reliable provision of essential healthcare supplies to populations around the world. Such examples include 3D printing respiratory ventilators for patients to eliminate the shortfall, or developing an app that allows national health systems to collate data on the spread and containment of an infectious disease.

UAS Operators Cautioned to Not Disrupt Food Supply Chain During COVID-19 Pandemic by Interfering with Low-Flying Ag Aircraft

2020-04-03
UAS Operators Cautioned to Not Disrupt Food Supply Chain During COVID-19 Pandemic by Interfering with Low-Flying Ag Aircraft
ALEXANDRIA, VA – April 2, 2020 As the nation enters the upcoming growing season in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) is asking all Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) operators to be extra mindful of low-flying manned agricultural aircraft operations.

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declared crop input services to be an essential service during the pandemic. Aerial applicators are inputting nutrients, seeds and crop protection products to crops that will become consumers’ food and fiber supply. We cannot afford even a small disruption in the nations food supply chain during this critical time,” said Andrew Moore, Chief Executive Officer of NAAA. Agricultural aviators perform applications on 28% of cropland nationwide, and their work cannot be delayed because of an unidentified UAS not yielding to them, as is required by law.

First Responder UAS Endurance Challenge Now Open

2020-04-03
First Responder UAS Endurance Challenge Now Open
The National Institute of Standards and Safety Public Safety Communications Research has launched the First Responder UAS Endurance Challenge with prize offerings totalling $552,000. UAS Challenge opened on April 1 for proposal submissions through the website.

The challenge, which will be hosted by ASU Research Enterprise, in partnership with Capital Consulting Corporation in April 2021, was created to crowd-source inventive drone designs that will support first responders. The first window to receive team funding for the challenge extends through April 30.

The result of the First Responder UAS Endurance Challenge will support the public safety community and its stakeholders.

Amazon Hires ex-Boeing Exec to Run Prime Air

2020-04-02
Amazon Hires ex-Boeing Exec to Run Prime Air
Amazon has hired a former Boeing executive to run its Prime Air drone delivery business, signaling the retail giant’s plans to expand the unit so that it can eventually start flying regular 30-minute shipments to customers homes.

David Carbon, who left the troubled airline manufacturer amid problems at the factory he ran, joined Amazon this month, according to a company statement. He succeeds Gur Kimchi, who had run Prime Air for the past seven years. Kimchis LinkedIn profile says he continues to work at Amazon.

Pix4D presents the next generation of photogrammetry and analytics software

2020-04-02
Pix4D presents the next generation of photogrammetry and analytics software
Photogrammetry leader Pix4D is announcing today the commercial release of next-generation software addressing the modern-day professional challenges. Developed in close collaboration with customers and partners, Pix4Dsurvey, Pix4Dmatic, Pix4Dinspect, and Pix4Dscan will contribute to revolutionizing the way professional customers operate and deliver their services.

Digital photogrammetry is an essential part of every modern surveyor’s toolkit and has contributed to launching hundreds of new drone mapping businesses around the world.

Pix4Dsurvey and Pix4Dmatic represent the next step in photogrammetry, addressing major challenges in the geospatial industry.

FlytBase and DroneLogBook Partner to Simplify Live, Remote Drone Operations

2020-04-02
FlytBase and DroneLogBook Partner to Simplify Live, Remote Drone Operations
FlytBase, Inc. and DroneLogBook are excited to partner together to help drone operators, service providers and system integrators automate and scale their UAV operations.

The growth of the global commercial drone industry, led by US-based enterprises, federal agencies and tech startups, is expected to accelerate as hardware gets commoditized, regulators remain proactive, and intelligent software enables an increasing number of use-cases. Seamless integration of hardware, software and services will power this growth – the drone ecosystem is fast maturing to provide this to enterprises who are keen to adopt UAVs to create business value.

FlytBase, Inc. provides drone agnostic software solutions to automate and scale drone operations. The FlytBase technology platform allows easy deployment of intelligent drone fleets, connected with cloud-based business applications. FlytBase offerings are compatible with major drone hardware platforms (eg. DJI, Ardupilot, PX4) and come with SDKs, simulator and APIs for reliable testing and seamless integration. FlytBase customers range from sectors such as public safety and energy utilities to warehouses, distribution centers, and air cargo facilities.

Drones are the Ideal Tool for Keeping the Economy Moving Despite Social Distancing. Heres How.

2020-04-02
Drones are the Ideal Tool for Keeping the Economy Moving Despite Social Distancing. Heres How.
As quarantines, shutdowns, and social distancing regulations are implemented around the globe to deal with the current pandemic, drone companies are stepping up to do what they can. Drones are an ideal tool to keep business going despite social distancing measures – but service providers say that they could do much more. Read on for a deep dive on how the drone industry is participating in response to current global challenges; and what needs to happen next.

The following is a guest post by Grant J. Guillot, who leads the Unmanned Aircraft Systems practice at the regional law firm of Adams and Reese LLP. DRONELIFE neither accepts nor makes payment for guest posts.

Northrop Grumman moves to LW30 PROX qualification, M-ACE CUAS testing

2020-04-01
Northrop Grumman moves to LW30 PROX qualification, M-ACE CUAS testing
Northrop Grumman Defense Systems has completed US government testing of its programmable Light Weight 30 mm Proximity Sensing Ammunition (LW30 PROX) round, and is moving towards qualification and fielding of the round to US Army and US Marine Corps air defence echelons within the year.

A company-funded development, which draws on legacy Orbital ATK sensor fuzed weapons technologies, the LW30 PROX is a 30×113 mm radio frequency (RF) proximity-fuzed, high explosive/fragmentation round intended for use with Northrop Grumman M230 Bushmaster variant chain guns (M230, M230 Link Fed, and XM914). Weighing 350 g, including a 245 g projectile, the LW30 PROX round features a PA520 electric primer, a Northrop Grumman-developed programmable proximity sensor, and double base propellant delivering a muzzle velocity of 1,105 m/s.

Zipline: Drones Could Begin Helping U.S. Hospitals Respond to Covid-19 Now

2020-03-31
Zipline: Drones Could Begin Helping U.S. Hospitals Respond to Covid-19 Now
Drone delivery heroes Zipline are already performing thousands of lifesaving drone delivery flights every day in Africa.
The world’s largest drone delivery network, Zipline can boast more than 1 million autonomous commercial delivery miles flown. They are the worlds experts on delivering medical supplies like vaccines, blood and critical medicines, regardless of environment.
They know how to set up bases, scale operations quickly, and work with regulatory agencies. When a base is established, says Zipline, “Each base can make up to 150 deliveries a day, and autonomously micro-target the delivery of more than two tons of cargo a week across an 8,000 sqm area…We can fly more than 20 drones at a time from each base simultaneously taking off, landing and delivering to separate points across an 8,000 square mile area.”

UniSA working on pandemic drone to detect coronavirus

2020-03-30
UniSA working on pandemic drone to detect coronavirus
A ‘pandemic drone’ to remotely monitor and detect people with infectious respiratory conditions is being developed by the University of South Australia (UniSA) in partnership with a Canadian company.

The drone will be fitted with a specialised sensor and computer vision system that can monitor temperature, heart and respiratory rates, as well as detect people sneezing and coughing in crowds, offices, airports, cruise ships, aged care homes and other places where groups of people may work or congregate.


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