Our lives have changed dramatically over the past few years. Not so long ago, drones were almost exclusively used by the military. The ones available to the public were generally small, inexpensive toys given to kids as gifts, with a life expectancy of only a few weeks.
These days, high-end drones with HD cameras and audio capabilities are readily available to anyone willing and able to pay the price. Such drones are now used in movie production, for food and package delivery, and simple hobby interests.
In previous blogs, we have discussed how drones have become a nuisance in spite of their constructive potential. Some people use them to spy on others, which raises privacy concerns, and some are used in ways that present very real dangers to commercial aviation.
In the past few weeks, however, drones have taken center stage once again in the fight against another event that has changed our lives forever – the Corona Virus. The FAA has recently authorized drone use in Covid-19 response efforts. The agency is relaxing some of the approval requirements for drones in order to allow more efficient and distanced delivery of items such as virus testing kits, prescription drugs, and in some cases, blood and other medical supplies.
The United States seems to be behind the curve a bit on drone use in the battle against the virus. In a fascinating article, Dory Gascuena of BBVA Bank, describes many more advanced uses of drone technology in this fight. For example, a group of entities in Australia, including the University of South Australia and the Australian Department of Defense, are studying the possible use of drones to detect illness from the air. In theory, the drones could find people with elevated temperatures, and even identify those who are coughing and sneezing. These people would then be given a Covid-19 test to see if they are infected. According to Gascuena, this technology is only on paper for now, but steps are being taken to advance it into practice.
Other proven uses of drones, however, are equally interesting. In Spain, drones have been used to communicate loudspeaker announcements to inform citizens of the quarantine rules and other information. The Spanish have also used drones to monitor gatherings and movements of people. Agricultural drones have also been used to spray disinfectant over certain areas that are large or difficult to access.
The Corona Virus has definitely caused an evolutionary-level shift in human behavior. It seems it is also initiating a seismic shift in how we use drone technology.