The pandemic, which has already killed more than 60,000 people and infected about 1.2 Million, has driven aviation into an unprecedented crisis.

But not for the Drone industry: Unmanned vehicles are becoming a key tool in coronavirus battle. That has opened the door for innovative applications to emerge from existing technology.

Around the world, authorities are turning to drones to fight against the coronavirus pandemic, using them to enforce lockdowns, disinfect urban areas and transport medical resources.

The trend began in China in the early weeks of the outbreak and has since gone global, with drones fitted with loudspeakers used to remind the public of lockdown measures and admonish rule-breakers.

Shenzen Police Drone for Medical Supplies
Police in Shenzhen test out drones by Shenzhen Smart Drone UAV for the purposes of transporting medical resources and patrolling. Picture: Handout

And some countries, like India and Indonesia, have found uses for the drones beyond law enforcement by using them to spray crowded urban areas with disinfectant. Unmanned vehicles use thermal sensors, high-definition zoom lenses, loudspeakers and chemical spray systems for disinfecting large areas.

In Malaysia, under Malaysia’s Movement Control Order (MCO), the country is using drones to monitor and control its citizens in a bid to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Malaysia’s armed forces will be running the drone programme, and will also be aiding police efforts on the ground to manage the coronavirus situation.

Through thermal sensing, drones are also helping officials with crowd management and to identify people with elevated body temperatures, which could indicate they have the virus.

Japanese company Terra Drone ensured that medical and other supplies were safely transported from Xinchang County’s disease control center to the Xinchang County People’s Hospital without exposing humans to infection. They obtained the first urban drone delivery license issued by the Civil Aviation Administration of China. According to reporting by GPS World, using drones speeds up transport by 50% compared to road transportation. In addition to speed, it doesn’t expose human delivery drivers to any risks.

“The coronavirus outbreak has changed the way people work and operate,” bolstering applications and autonomous equipment that reduce human contact, said Xie Jia, deputy general manager at Shenzhen Smart Drone UAV.

“The coronavirus outbreak has led to a deeper understanding of the application of drones by society and government.” said Lu Zhihui, chairman of Shenzhen MicroMultiCopter Aero Technology. “It’s an excellent catalyst for our company’s development that will fast-track our growth.”

Both MicroMultiCopter and Smart Drone count government clients as one of their most important sources of income, with the sales making up about 30 per cent of their overall revenue. MicroMultiCopter deployed more than 100 drones to many Chinese cities that could patrol areas and observe crowds and traffic more efficiently.

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