In North America, drones have been used in military applications, in public safety, such as collecting evidence in criminal investigations, or search and rescue. Drones are also used extensively in the agriculture and energy industries.
Mining, oil, and utility companies use drones for their speed and cost effectiveness. It’s less expensive to get a drone with a camera into the air to the middle of nowhere than a human in a helicopter, especially responding to an emergency.
But now, they are being applied to public health.
Draganfly, a drone manufacturer has been selected as the exclusive integration partner by Vital Intelligence Inc., a healthcare data services & deep learning company in conjunction with the University of South Australia, using technology developed with help from the Australian Department of Defence Science and Technology Group,
Draganfly will utilize its engineering, integration and distribution expertise as well as its secure supply chain for immediate commercialization and deployment of the technology.
The Vital Intelligence Project is a health and respiratory monitoring platform involving utilizing new and existing camera networks as well as UAVs and RPAS being immediately commercialized for health monitoring and detection of infectious and respiratory conditions including monitoring temperatures, heart and respiratory rates, amongst crowds, workforces, airlines, cruise ships, potential at-risk groups, i.e., seniors in care facilities, convention centers, border crossings or critical infrastructure facilities.
The University of Southern Australia recently enlisted the help of Draganfly, a drone manufacturer based in Saskatchewan, Canada, to help establish a global early warning system for infectious and respiratory diseases.The exclusive agreement with Draganfly will help the University integrate and commercialize its breakthrough technology that detects fever (as opposed to temperature), cough, respiratory rate, heart rate and blood pressure—from a distance.The new technology will be applied to camera networks, autonomous devices, and drones. Draganfly is the oldest operating drone company in the world, but their first category of service is product engineering. The 22-year old company also offers rapid prototype, product design, integrated solution design, regulations, compliance, design review, and flight training. But it was their long-standing relationship with the university that made them a good fit for this timely project.
As the coronavirus lockdown has stretched on, remote technologies, virtual services, and business delivery systems that promote social distancing while sustaining some level of economic activity are booming. The pandemic may present an opportunity to utilize drones for the public good.
“We were selected first for our history,” says Cameron Chell, Draganfly Cchairman and CEO. “The University of Southhern Australia bought our very first research drone from Draganfly, in 1999. And secondly, for our capabilities. Draganfly is known for commercializing firsts.”
Draganfly created the first quad copter, the first six blade copter, and their drone was the first to be used in a life-saving situation. In 2014, the Draganflyer X4-ES located missing hikers lost in a heavily wooded area outside Halifax, Nova Scotia, showing the world how quadcopter technology can be used to save lives in real-world applications. Two years later, Draganfly became the first company to have multiple UAV systems deemed Transport Canada Compliant.
“Now, we’ll be the first to help establish an early warning detection system,” Chell says.
The company doesn’t produce commercial drones in mass quantities. Instead, they design and manufacture professional drones for specific use cases.
Up until now, the primary market for this A—Z manufacturer and systems provider of drones has been public safety, first responders, police forces. Thus far, their largest market has been contract engineering for military contractors in the U.S.
In the beginning, Chell says that people had urged him to abandon manufacturing at home, since most North American companies find cheaper places abroad to offload its product manufacturing, but manufacturing has turned out to be their strategic differentiator.
“There’s a serious mandate within the US to ensure that there’s a drone industry that is for the North American market. They want competition, but they want a certain level of security that this very, very important industry—that collects more data than pretty much any other device out there other than maybe your cell phone—has a data security path and a supply chain that remains inside the US. And that’s our opportunity.”
It’s this collection of data that sparks privacy concerns over gathering public health information remotely from the skies, but due to COVID-19, Draganfly hopes that the perception of drones, and more importantly, how they can be used effectively for the public good may enjoy a Renaissance.