Using unmanned aerial vehicles to fight viruses | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Using unmanned aerial vehicles to fight viruses

Apr 17, 2020

Credit CDC

A demonstration project is underway in the Grand Forks area, on how unmanned aerial vehicles could be used to fight viruses, such as COVID-19.

The University of North Dakota is funding the project. Also collaborating: the Center for Innovation, the Research Institute for Autonomus Systems, UND's Medical School, NDSU, Grand Forks County, and SkySkopes.

SkySkopes CEO and President Matt Dunlevy said the project has three purposes: to use UAVs to spray water and disinfectants to stop and kill the virus; to use the drones to deliver medical supplies; and to use drones to detect if people are running fevers.

"For example, if someone might have COVID-19, and they get a fever, the sensors that we use, that are so high-resolution and advanced, they can detect anyone with a fever from a distance," Dunlevy said in an interview.

The high resolution detector is called "Optical Gas Imagers."

After the tests are completed, Dunlevy said the partners will look at the results, and the lessons learned, and determine the next steps.

"It's obvious to us that in small scale, this is good right now," Dunlevy said. "But what are the circumstantial methodology adjustments we would have to make to scale this for these types of missions?"

Dunlevy said it's important to get these lessons learned right now, and to work with the researchers.

"We don't know how long this pandemic is going to last," Dunlevy said. "But we do know that unmanned aircraft systems are effective tools against the virus."

The results will also be shared with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services and the Governor's Office.