University of South Australia (UniSA) engineers have developed a new ‘pandemic drone’ to remotely monitor and detect people with infectious respiratory conditions.
Built in collaboration with Canadian aircraft manufacturing company Draganfly Inc, the drone comes fitted with a specialized sensor and computer vision system that can monitor temperature, heart and respiratory rates.
It could thus prove useful in detecting people who sneeze and cough in crowds, offices, airports, cruise ships, aged care homes and other places where groups of people may work or congregate.
The pandemic drone team is been led by UniSA Professor Javaan Chahl.
Chahl, working alongside Dr Ali Al-Naji and Asanka Perera, achieved global recognition in 2017 when they demonstrated image-processing algorithms that could extract a human’s heart rate from drone video.
Since then they have demonstrated that heart rate and breathing rate can be measured with high accuracy within 5-10 meters of people, using drones and at distances of up to 50 meters with fixed cameras.
They have also developed algorithms that can interpret human actions such as sneezing and coughing.
Under the present scenario, Chahl opines that the technology could be a viable screening tool for the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest health catastrophe the world has experienced in the past 100 years.
“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.”
Image and content: University of South Australia