Coronavirus: disinfecting with drones

By on 4 February, 2020

Chinese agricultural UAV specialist XAG has established a five-million yuan fund for a drone disinfection operation to fight the outbreak.

Concerned that the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has spread through more than 20 countries and become a global health emergency, XAG announced on Friday that it would set up a 5-million yuan  (AUD 1m) special fund on a coronavirus response, calling for voluntary drone disinfection operations in China, the country hardest hit by the epidemic.

XAG is pitching in to combat the contagious coronavirus with innovative technologies, as well as assisting local governments on public health safety. The 5m-yuan fund is dedicated to providing XAG’s agricultural drone users with technical support to properly carry out aerial disinfection sprays to help curb the spread of the virus, especially in rural villages with weaker health systems and poorer sanitation conditions. These operations will target the densely populated outdoor public places and those communities that have confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus. Another focus of the operation is the intensive cleaning and disinfecting of medical and epidemic-prevention vehicles moving between affected and unaffected areas.

During the nationwide drone disinfection operation, XAG will cover all the spare parts and maintenance expenses for those who voluntarily engage. Strict qualification checks and standard operation procedures (SOP) will be implemented to ensure safety and legitimacy.

According to the Novel Coronavirus Treatment Proposal (Fourth Edition) published by National Health Commission of China, coronavirus is mainly transmitted via respiratory droplets, but it can also spread by touching contaminated surfaces. Dr Mara Van Kerkhove, a member of the World Health Organisation’s emergency committee, also confirmed the possibility of coronavirus spreading via fomites (objects or materials that are likely to carry infection such as clothes, utensils and furniture).

Agricultural drone, as an autonomous precision spraying tool, can be a highly effective way to accurately release disinfectants over public places. Compared with traditional disinfection approaches conducted by hand or sprayed by trucks, drones can be directed to spray where it is needed and cover a wider area, helping to improve public hygiene and reduce the risk of virus transmission through surface contact. In China’s Shandong province, XAG’s drone fleets were deployed by a crop protection team on 28 January to disinfect a local community of over 300,000 square metres in less than four hours.

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