As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread all around the world and social distancing has become the new normal, countries start to look at how technology can help us during this crisis. Able to safely enter and collect data in environments or conditions dangerous for humans, drones are now a big part of the puzzle and are helping in various ways to mitigate worker shortages and reduce exposure to COVID-19 – one of them being the sanitization of cities.
From an article in Commercial UAV News by Joao Antunes.
Digital Aerolus, an autonomous technology provider, developed the Aertos semi-autonomous drones to fly in confined spaces and places where GPS is not available, such as indoors, underground and other places other drones cannot go, by using deep space tech and A.I. Supporting clients in Energy, Mining, Infrastructure, Oil and Gas, and Public Safety industries, the company is now looking into the use of drones for disinfecting surfaces, the interiors of planes and ships, and entire rooms. To this end, Digital Aerolus is investigating two different options for drone-based disinfection: ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) and disinfectant fogging.
UVGI is a disinfection method that uses short-wavelength ultraviolet (UVC) to sanitize a surface or an entire indoor area. According to Digital Aerolus, exposure to UVC light with enough intensity and duration destroys the RNA replication mechanism of the virus with +99.9% effectiveness. However, UVC lighting elements are often large and heavy, require significant power a drone can’t handle, and can injure pilots. Therefore, the company is currently working to integrate smaller and more powerful sources of UVC with drones, and using its Mind of Motion Framework (MMF) technology to deploy drones autonomously so that pilots can remain out of harm’s way.
Using a combination of hydrogen peroxide and silver nitrate successfully destroys +99.9% of bacteria and viruses when dispersed as a mist. This is one of the ways hospitals and other facilities use the disinfectant fogging technique to decontaminate indoor areas. While drones mounted with disinfectant systems can fly outdoors to fight COVID-19’s contamination, Digital Aerolus wants to bring the fight indoors. The company believes “chemical disinfectant canisters mounted on stable indoor drones may prove to be an indispensable weapon in combating the Coronavirus indoors” and is now testing ways to mount and deliver disinfectant systems with its stable indoor industrial drones.
To help fight the pandemic, other companies sought out the use of drones originally designed to spray pesticides for agricultural applications and adapted them to spray disinfecting chemicals in some public spaces and on epidemic prevention vehicles traveling between impacted areas. On February 4, DJI pledged almost US $1.5 million in aid to help contain the outbreak and adapted the Agras series of agricultural spraying drones to spray disinfectant in potentially affected areas.
“Assisting on the containment of a disease, while ensuring safety to personnel, was very difficult to do in the past,” said Romeo Durscher, Senior Director of Public Safety Integration at DJI. “This was a complete grassroots movement. Users inspired us to take action, and it was worth the effort. It embodies the DJI spirit, where anyone with access to these new tools can help improve their environment and help society.”
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