Researchers at the University of South Australia are working to develop a drone that can spot people with potential respiratory infections, remotely. A wall-mounted AI device that listens for coughing and sneezing to predict and monitor pandemics was recently reported in Medgadget, but this latest monitoring device is mobile. The developers say the drone technology could be useful in monitoring and controlling the spread of pandemics, such as the current COVID-19 emergency.
To create the device, the Australian team will work with DraganFly, a US-based drone developer. The research group has previously created drone technology that can measure heart and breathing rates from within 5-10 meters, using image processing algorithms, and also measure activities associated with illnesses, such as coughing and sneezing.
This latest device will take things further, as the research team intends to fit a drone with sensors that can also record someone’s temperature – a potential indicator of COVID-19 infection. During the current pandemic, the drone could patrol locations where it is likely to encounter people, such as public spaces, airports, and streets, where it can monitor people to see if they show signs of disease.
Monitoring crowds of people could be particularly useful. “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,” said Javaan Chahl, a researcher involved in the work.
Originally conceived for applications such as search and rescue in disaster zones, the researchers have realized that with the current pandemic, the drone may be useful for remote monitoring in a wide array of spaces. “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,” said Chahl.
“We are honoured to work on such an important project given the current pandemic facing the world with COVID-19,” said Draganfly CEO Cameron Chell. “Health and respiratory monitoring will be vital not only for detection but also to understand health trends.”