Update – 17:34, March 12, 2020 (UTC+8) – Some research findings have contested the efficacy of aerial disinfection. DJI will continue to work with professionals in the medical and scientific community to offer the most effective form of assistance it can provide.
Since emerging in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, the new COVID-19 coronavirus has spread around the world. As of February 12, the death toll within mainland China exceeded 1,113, with 44,563 confirmed cases.
As the outbreak grew, so did public questions and concerns. How far would the virus spread? How can people protect themselves?
To help address those fears and resolve the crisis, public safety officials in China explored how to use new technologies — and DJI has stepped up to that challenge with drones.
Disinfecting Public Spaces with Drones
Together with agricultural technology think tanks, DJI has been working to fight the disease. On February 4, we pledged almost US $1.5 million in aid to help contain the outbreak. We have also adapted our Agras series of agricultural spraying drones to spray disinfectant in potentially affected areas. Drones can dramatically improve how China attempts to kill the virus in public areas: They can cover far more ground than traditional methods, while reducing risk to workers who would otherwise spend more time potentially exposed to both the virus and the disinfectant.
After rounds of research and testing, teams developed best practices for spraying a chlorine or ethyl alcohol-based disinfectant from the air. The concentration of the solution as well as flight guidelines can be modified for different circumstances, such as whether an area is known to be infected or not.
DJI has sprayed disinfectant in over 3 million square meters in Shenzhen. The company is also helping 1,000 counties in China to adopt the spraying method. Target areas include factories, residential areas, hospitals, and waste treatment plants. In total, this covers 600 million square meters across the country so far. With this solution, spraying efficiency can be 50 times faster than traditional methods. In a crisis where time plays a critical role, this is great news.
“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 the access to these new tools can help improve their environment and help society.”
Using Drones in More Ways During the Outbreak
These past few weeks have given people a chance to discover new ways to curb the spread of COVID-19 in China. Loudspeakers were mounted on drones to help disperse public gatherings in crowded places. Drones flew banners advising people how to learn more about precautions. Thermal cameras on drones were also used to monitor body temperature so medical staff can identify new potential cases.
Drone delivery is another popular topic. The outbreak has kept millions of families in their homes to avoid contact with others. A huge help to these households can come in the form of contactless delivery. Organizations can send food, supplies and medicine to anyone in need. At the same time, avoiding face-to-face contact will cut the risk of infection.
Continuing the Fight Against COVID-19
The battle with the novel coronavirus has only begun. Cases are continuing to rise in and outside of China. But recent reports show the tide appears to be turning. Researchers are learning more about the virus every day. Vaccines are being developed in laboratories around the world. And the public is doing its share by taking every precaution available.
While COVID-19 remains a threat, there are countless people with innovative ideas developing 21st-century solutions to save lives. We at DJI are proud to empower these individuals any way we can, and we will continue pushing forward with #DronesForGood to protect emergency responders as well as the public at large. We hope the lessons learned from this crisis will help us use drones, sensors and other cutting-edge solutions even better during future medical, humanitarian, disaster response and relief missions.
P.S. – Learn more about how DJI is using its agricultural drones for disease control and prevention in this article about how DJI Agras drones are helping to combat malaria in Zanzibar.