UniSA working on COVID-19 detecting drone

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Friday, 27 March, 2020

UniSA working on COVID-19 detecting drone

University of South Australia researchers are developing a pandemic drone capable of detecting and remotely monitoring COVID-19 hotspots.

The drone will be fitted with a specialised sensor and computer vision system that can monitor temperature and heart and respiratory rates, and detect sneezing and coughing in crowds, offices, airports, cruise ships, aged-care homes and other places with significant groups of people.

The UniSA team, led by Defence Chair of Sensor Systems Professor Javaan Chahl, will work with Canadian drone technology company Draganfly to start integrating the technology into solutions for commercial, medical and government customers.

Chahl’s team has demonstrated that heart rate and breathing rate can be measured with high accuracy within 5–10 metres of people using drones, and at distances of up to 50 metres using fixed cameras. They have also developed algorithms to detect actions such as sneezing and coughing.

He believes the technology could prove to be a valuable screening tool during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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,” he said.

While the technology was originally envisaged for monitoring of war zones and natural disasters, “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”.

Image courtesy Draganfly.

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