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Bridge Bytes: Robots and Drones in the Fight Against COVID-19

26 Mar 12:00 by Ben Taylor

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Since the initial reports of an outbreak in China there have now been over 400,000 cases of COVID-19 worldwide including reports of over 20,000 deaths, and unfortunately it doesn’t seem like there is any sign of the pandemic slowing down soon. With one third of humanity in lockdown, it is no surprise that governments, health organisations and scientists the world over are racing to find a vaccine to the coronavirus. And while they are making progress, it seems unlikely that awe will see a vaccine become available to the public for a number of months.

Since the outbreak, despite a heroic amount of effort, there has been an incredible amount of strain on our National Health Service and resources. Coupled with self-isolation and quarantine, the pandemic is making it ever more difficult for people to get the care that they need, so it seems there is no better way to fast-track the testing of robots and drones in public than now – when officials are seeking out safe ways to provide services which limit the spread of contamination of the virus. Here are some of the ways robots and drones are helping in the fight against COVID-19.

Providing care and treatment

The coronavirus outbreak is has been extremely taxing on healthcare systems worldwide. Telemedicine (which we have explored on a previous Bridge Bytes) is aided by robots and allows medical professionals to communicate with patients remotely, saving time and avoiding any non-essential human contact, protecting both the professional and the patient from being exposed to any form of contamination.

Delivery robots

There has long been talk of Amazon wanting to enlist drones to their workforce, allowing them to pick up and drop of parcels all over the world, saving human time and avoiding unnecessary human interaction. Since the outbreak, workforces have been working tirelessly to ensure deliveries of food, consumer goods and medical supplies are met on time. One Chinese company, AliBaba has been using robots in its warehouses and has been involved in getting medical supplies to areas of China that desperately need them for testing and treatment of the coronavirus.

Virus-fighting drones

Since over 30% of the world has been forbidden from leaving their house, it seems drones are finally have their time to shine. In China, they are being mobilised for everything from detecting fevers in crowds to disinfecting public spaces, to delivering supplies across the country. Drones, which were once used for agricultural purposes, are now being repurposed to spray disinfectant across public spaces as well as delivering goods to the vulnerable or isolated communities.

Staying positive

We have no real idea of the true lasting impact that the COVID-19 outbreak will have on society or how long it might take for us to recover. One positive we can take away from the pandemic is that research into AI and technology, such as robots and drones will be fast tracked, so that if we are ever unfortunate enough to experience another similar global situation, we may be better suited to combat the challenges that it poses.

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