In the trade, they’re called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), but the public now knows them as drones. And it seems that every day a new way is discovered for leveraging this technology, often in ways that benefit society.
That’s how publicly traded drone company Draganfly Inc. got involved in the current fight against the coronavirus, the pandemic that’s been sweeping the world, for several weeks.
In March, Draganfly was named as the exclusive global systems integrator for what’s being referred to as the Vital Intelligence Project, an initiative established by Australian-based healthcare data company Vital Intelligence Inc. in cooperation with the University of South Australia and the Australian Department of Defence Science and Technology group.
Draganfly’s role is to deploy a number of drones customized with instrumentation that can detect, from far above, fevers and coughing by individuals in large groups of people. This is accomplished by equipping the crafts with onboard thermal sensors and smart computer vision technology that can monitor such measurements as fever-associated temperature and respiratory and heart rates at a distance.
The “pandemic drones,” as they’re calling them, can also identify people sneezing and coughing in large crowds. The objective of the $1.5 million dollar project is to identify where the virus exists and, ultimately, to stop the pandemic in Australia.
According to Dr. Javan Chaal, defence science and technology chair at the University of South Australia, “The University and Defence supported my team’s efforts to develop automation for use in epidemics and disasters. We had imagined the technology being used in a future relief expedition to a far-away place. Now, shockingly, we see a need for its use in our everyday lives immediately. Draganfly’s industrial know-how is quickly helping us ensure our research can save lives.”
“We were selected for this project because of our proven leadership in an industry so important to public safety at a critical time,” says Draganfly’s CEO Cameron Chell. “We look forward to working with global agencies and companies to rapidly deploy this important technology.”
For its part, Draganfly is not only a recognized leader in the UAV space but a pioneering company as well. While drones have largely become commonplace among the public over the past few years, Draganfly has been active in building and deploying the technology for more than two decades. In fact, back in 1999, they built the first commercialized quadrotor UAV.
Today, when many people think of drones, they envision the sweeping landscape videos that UAVs fitted with GoPro cameras are able to capture over vacation destinations. While these have become popular YouTube videos in recent years, Draganfly was ahead of the curve, creating and releasing the first multi-rotor UAV fitted with a camera system in 2001. That’s nearly 20 years ago. Since then, Draganfly has become the world’s go-to company for UAV innovation, winning numerous awards along the way and earning major feature stories in such media outlets as Time Magazine, The New York Times and National Geographic.
Cameron Chell says he’s proud that he and his team have been able to leverage their technology to support a variety of initiatives that have been proven to benefit the public. In one instance, the Draganfly even played a major role in helping the police in a project targeted at public safety. In 2009, the company made history when the Ontario Provincial Police’s Forensic Identification Unit used the Draganflyer X6 drone to collect evidence during a homicide investigation. This was the first time a commercial UAV was used for emergency services in North America.
Then in 2013, the same UAV was the focus of a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on law enforcement and privacy related to drone use by police, which helped lawmakers establish use guidelines and write policy. In 2014, another Draganfly UAV was deployed to help locate missing hikers lost in the woods near Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Chell notes that Draganfly’s capabilities, which range from hardware development to software creation to a wide range of customized solutions depending on the needs of the project, continue to be employed on a number of fronts in such environments as agriculture, industry, government, energy, insurance and others. “We appreciate the trust our clients and partners place in us, and we’re always eager to solve problems.”
The company plans to continue developing new products, technology and applications that will benefit society worldwide.