Earlier this year, DJI supported local initiatives to mitigate the local outbreak of the coronavirus in China by demonstrating how drone technology can help local authorities monitor public spaces and keep the public informed while keeping their first responders on the ground safe. DJI has now activated its Disaster Relief Program in the United States to help public safety agencies across the country scale their drone operations as they work to mitigate local outbreaks in their community. We spoke with Romeo Durscher, DJI’s Senior Director of Public Safety Integration, to learn more about the program.
Q: How did the program come to life?
A: Public safety agencies are the ones who have to enforce health directives, maintain order at critical locations such as hospitals and testing sites, and continue to respond to emergencies of all sorts. The first responders who are putting their lives at risk to protect the public deserve tools that help them do their work more easily and efficiently, while also protecting them as much as possible from close contact with other people. Drones have quickly emerged as an innovative technology to help them protect the public while keeping themselves safe, during this pandemic. DJI’s Disaster Relief Program aims to equip first responders with the right tools and training to help them scale their existing drone operations effectively during an unprecedented time like this.
Q: How are agencies selected?
A: Our team is looking for authorized public safety agencies who already have an established drone program, have a solid understanding of regulatory and authorization requirements, and can demonstrate they have enough resources and personnel to maximize the program’s benefits. These qualifications help ensure the drones allocated to each department will be put to work quickly and effectively. We will also prioritize agencies responding to the largest, most critical outbreaks.
Q: Why are you focusing on agencies already using drones?
A: During emergencies, agencies can’t spare the time to develop new operations and procedures for new technologies and tools. For that reason, our team believes the majority of our resources would be most beneficial to agencies that already have the personnel and knowledge to put the drones to good use, and can quickly do more if given access to more drone equipment.
Q: Why are you running this program only in North America?
The Disaster Relief Program was first established in North America last fall and we are activating it to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While we don’t currently have a similar official program in other regions at this time, we do encourage public safety officials from other countries to get in touch with us through firstname.lastname@example.org so we can find a way to support you.
Q: What made you decide now is a good time to start this program?
A: DJI has been collaborating with agencies and volunteers in affected countries including China and South Korea over the past weeks to better understand how our technology can meet public safety officials’ needs in COVID-19 operations. As the virus has spread, so has DJI’s work around the globe to communicate with local partners to understand needs and gather resources.
In late January, we started to notice interesting applications of drones to keep the public safe and combat the spread of the virus. These grassroots efforts from provincial government agencies and volunteer workers inspired us to take action, and since then we’ve been exploring different ways that drones can help public safety officials respond to the crisis more safely, efficiently and effectively. Our experience working with public health and safety stakeholders in China since the early days of this pandemic has given us valuable insights and understanding that we can expand across the globe.
Q: How have public safety officials from different countries been using drones to fight COVID-19?
A: In China, DJI worked with public health and safety agencies there as they deployed drones for known public safety applications such as monitoring crowds and delivering critical supplies, as well as for experimental new applications such as spraying disinfectant and measuring body temperature from a distance. As the fight against coronavirus moved to Europe, we have seen police using drones for similar tasks, from identifying large gatherings in Italy to warning beachgoers to go home in France. We hope DJI’s global reach and long-established expertise can help serve as a global resource to gather data, develop best practices and protect the public.
Other potential use-cases can include homeless camp evaluations. The movement of the homeless population is a serious concern for their safety and the San Francisco Bay Area has the densest homeless population. On March 17, the first homeless person passed away from COVID-19, further raising the concern of properly identifying, tracking change in homeless camps over time, and helping the vulnerable homeless and their encampments. Many already have poor nutrition and health, increasing their likelihood of severe complications to this virus. Using drones can help collect important data sets and help flatten the curve in these areas.
For more on applications, I invite you to visit our site on news related to our fight against COVID-19.
Q: Where can I find more program details?
A: Find more details here.
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