During this COVID19 pandemic, technology has come in handy in a lot of new ways. One such example is the usage of drones to deliver essential products or services to customers and users like medical necessities. In these trying times, COVID 19 has allowed for the humans to be as innovative with the technology they have around them and thus led to an increase in the popularity of an aircraft whose full potential was previously untapped according to most people. Jason Ford wrote that the compelling use of drones to drop off medical supplies in remote areas or even to maintain social distancing gave insight into the potential usage of this technology.
Drones are being used for a wide variety of tasks, like delivering medical necessities, making announcements to disperse crowds, spray disinfectants wherever necessary, and even check people’s temperatures. As trial drones were sent to St Mary’s hospital with medical supplies since it is located on an island, the isle of wight and the ferries were not working due to everybody being inside their homes for quarantine. Solent Transport conducted the trial alongside Southampton University and Windracers. The Windracers Unmanned Low-cost Transport UAV was the model used for this project. It is capable of carrying 100kg of load but was loaded with only 40kgs, and it completed the flight in 13 minutes from Solent Airport, Hants to the island on May 9.
A similar situation was noticed in Scotland, where UK drone delivery provider Skyports teamed up with SOARIZON to deliver test kits and PPE kits from one hospital to another. The distance between these two hospitals is approximately 10 miles. Before the COVID 19 pandemic, the deliveries were always completed by road or sea, and drones were never tried out as an alternative. Still, now that the situation demands people to get a little more innovative and make these deliveries unmanned, drones save the day. These journeys usually take up to six hours one way, but the introduction of drones has brought the time down to a mere 15 minutes, which is highly optimized.
Before COVID 19, the UK government had already started planning and investing in bringing freight-drones into their scenes, COVID 19 just escalated that process. The major progress here is that the drones in Scotland and Isle of wight proved that they are fit to carry out delivers even in ‘beyond visual line of sight’ areas, which is a very crucial necessity if drones are to be used for deliveries in every sector. According to James Willoughby, the drone content executive at Heliguy, which is a drone supplier, the global drone market will grow considerably by 2024 up to an estimated $43 billion.
Willoughby also said that drone charging and fueling stations would have to become more common if this delivery model was to be incorporated in our lives, especially if the drone-in-a-box model was to be followed. This box would be acting as its charging station and landing base, and it would also facilitate autonomous deliveries. Most of Skyport’s success comes from Casia, which is a system that detects and avoids collisions of drones with other aerial objects. It was developed by San Francisco based Iris-Automation. Willoughby further added that a lot of DJI drones are fitted with ADS-B signals, which allow them to detect signals from other aircraft and airplanes and then avoid a collision, thus acting like they have a pilot on board.