Spies in the Sky: Will coronavirus herald an explosion in drone activity?

The pandemic has resulted in massive changes in the way we are currently living our lives, official authorities have asked us to maintain social distancing, which has led to an impact on the running of services. This raises questions around how this pandemic has affected supply chains, extending towards delivery of vital food and medical supplies. In addition, the pandemic has also affected the services provided by the police in ensuring public safety through abiding with social distancing measures.

This makes us think about the future, and the long term impact the pandemic may have for hospitals, businesses, and the measures taken in ensuring the safety for people across the world. As these challenges have been highlighted, drone technology can provide an innovative solution:

Take to the skies: are drones in it’s prime to improve delivery of vital food and medical supplies and public safety

The efficiency of deliveries has been affected as services are overstretched therefore, it is important to understand how supply chains can be transformed for the future, for example, can we make deliveries faster with zero-emissions?  

Depending on the specification, drones can carry up to 100kg for up to 1000 km and travel at high speeds of 70mph. In recent news, there has been significant stories globally regarding drone applications indicating a promising future and how drones can support the challenges we are currently facing.

Increasingly businesses have started to use drone delivery services to fulfil orders which can be demonstrated by Amazon. A provider of drone as a service delivery is Wing, enabling delivery of food and medical supplies from local businesses and pharmacies directly to your home through drone technology. It is important for the future of drones to ensure there are regulations and governed processes with air traffic control systems across the world for commercial use of drones delivering services to residential homes. Wing has been approved as an airline by the US Federal Aviation Administration therefore, subject to the same regulations as flights.

Drone services have also shown a positive impact for hospitals aiding in delivering medical supplies. This has led to a trial being conducted to transport medical supplies from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, to St Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight through drones.

The above cases have highlighted how drones are being used for delivery of services, however as drones include integrated cameras they can also be used for surveillance, tracking and monitoring services to be leveraged by local authorities and the police.

The pandemic has meant we as citizens need to keep each other safe through maintaining distance with each other, this is paramount in limiting the spread of the virus. In the UK, there have been plentiful news stories regarding the public not abiding with social distancing measures. Drone technology has enabled a practical solution with this challenge helping the council and the police. Through using drones integrating speakers and a camera, local authorities can announce health messaging provided by the Government to raise awareness to the public, also, enabling the police to discover areas where gatherings are taking place.

Further research and development in drone technology have shown that indicators can be measured to detect the virus through thermal imaging cameras, such as, body temperature which aims to track the spread of the virus. However, measurements gained highlight a variation in the body temperature therefore can be inaccurate and raise questions of the effectiveness in tracking the spread of the virus.

Although drone technology is relatively new, these cases show a promising future in the application of drones in wide sectors, and perhaps we will continue to see a growth in drones after the pandemic. However, drone technologies are not without their concerns, from whether drones will lead to an overcrowded sky, will drones lead to unfair surveillance of the most vulnerable in the country as they scan the streets, how real are privacy concerns through adopting drones, does increased surveillance mean it is the end of our freedom as drones can record behaviour as soon as we leave our homes or will we be become adapted with the new changes in aerospace because they meet the ever-increasing demands of our society?

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