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‘Pandemic Drone’ Could Detect Virus Symptoms Like COVID-19 in Crowds

COVID-19 Pandemic Drone Could Detect Virus Symptoms in Crowds

What You Should Know:

A drone to remotely detect people in crowds with infectious respiratory conditions such as COVID-19 is being developed by the University of South Australia researchers in partnership with a Canadian tech company.

Dubbed the ‘pandemic drone’ by researchers, the UAV will be fitted with a specialized sensor and computer vision system that can monitor temperature, heart and respiratory rates to detect people sneezing and coughing in crowds, offices, airports, cruise ships, aged care homes and other places where groups congregate.

The University of South Australia (UniSA) will work with North American drone technology company Draganfly Inc to immediately start integrating commercial, medical and government customers.


As the number of COVID-19 hit
cases in the USA has gone beyond 60,000 and it is increasing day by day, the University
of South Australia researchers have developed a new ‘pandemic drone’ that can
remotely detect people in crowds with infectious respiratory conductions such
as COVID-19.

Pandemic Drone Detection Capabilities

The ‘pandemic drone’ will be equipped with a sensor and computer vision system that can monitor temperature, heart and respiratory rates, as well to detect:

– people sneezing and coughing in crowds

– offices

– airports

– cruise ships

– aged care homes

– other places where large groups congregate

The University of South Australia (UniSA) team, led by Defence Chair of Sensor Systems Professor Javaan Chahl, will work with  North American drone technology company Draganfly Inc to use its sensor, software, and engineering expertise to immediately start integrating commercial, medical and government customers. Professor Chahl said the technology was being adapted and fast-tracked to potentially become a viable screening tool for the COVID-19 pandemic. “

Algorithms for measuring temperature and detecting coughing
and sneezing movements are still being optimized at their lab in Adelaide,
South Australia. There’s a lot of engineering going on right now but the
aspiration is to have this in some sort of initial capability within six months.
We had always thought the technology could be used for something like this but we
also thought that this was something down the track as a nasty possibility,” said
Professor Chahl.

“Now, shockingly, we see a need for its use immediately, to help save lives in the biggest health catastrophe the world has experienced in the past 100 years. It might not detect all cases, but it could be a reliable tool to detect the presence of the disease in a place or in a group of people,” Professor Chahl added.

Pandemic Drone Builds Off Previous Research

Professor Chahl and his research team achieved global recognition in 2017 when they demonstrated image-processing algorithms that could extract a human’s heart rate from drone video. Since then they have demonstrated that heart rate and breathing rate can be measured with high accuracy within 5-10 meters of people, using drones and at distances of up to 50 meters with fixed cameras. They have also developed algorithms that can interpret human actions such as sneezing and coughing.

The research has previously looked at using drones to monitor and react to elderly falls, look for signs of life in war zones or following a natural disaster and monitoring the heart rate of babies in neonatal incubators.

“It’s one thing to have it work in a science experiment type
scenario but getting it to run in the field on a real piece of hardware is
quite a challenge.”

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