While drones and robots were already in use in some specific cases like surveillance and videography, the pandemic has accelerated their usage in other aspects of human lives.
Many delivery companies and restaurants in the US and China launched contactless delivery services where goods are picked up and dropped off at a designated location instead of from or into the hands of a person.
The government of India has also allowed hyperlocal delivery start-ups to start testing Beyond the Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) drones for commercial deliveries and the regulatory framework is expected to crystallise soon.
Usages in various markets
In China, Europe and the U.S., drones have been used to spray disinfectant. In the U.S., drones are being used to reach out to homeless people and help monitor social distancing. Drones are being used in many places to deliver personal protective equipment, samples and equipment to medical campuses and providers.
Additional ways that robots and drones are being utilized today include:
- Disinfect medical facilities and sanitize public surfaces such as shelves and inside public transit cars
- Monitor crowded populations for temperature and other symptoms to follow guidelines that will help reduce spread
- Deliver medical, PPE and other essential supplies
- Fulfill takeout orders and execute curbside pick-up at restaurants and grocery stores
Innovation is the key
The pandemic has fast-tracked the “testing” of robots and drones in public as officials seek out the most expedient and safe way to grapple with the outbreak and limit contamination and spread of the virus.
Danish company UVD Robots shipped robots to Chinese hospitals to disinfect rooms, and when fully deployed, the robots will operate in all Chinese provinces. These robots emit an ultraviolet light throughout an area to kill viruses and bacteria without exposing any human personnel to infection.
A survey by the American Chamber of Commerce Shanghai found nearly half of the 109 companies polled said that their biggest challenge in the coming weeks was to have enough staff to run the full production lines in factories. This reality will make ramping up robotic automation even more appealing to reduce costs, ensure continuity and productivity even if the country experiences another global pandemic or other shutdowns.
According to reporting by GPS World, using drones speeds up transport by 50% compared to road transportation. In addition to speed, it doesn’t expose human delivery drivers to any risks.
It may not be very surprising if robots and drones could become an increasingly essential support for humans in fighting the virus in the near future.
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