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How drones can help authorities control the spread of COVID-19

How drones can help authorities control the spread of COVID-19
Cameras fitted on drones can also capture footage that analytic solutions can use.
The security industry has come up with several solutions that would help authorities protect people from COVID-19. Most significant among them are analytic solutions that can monitor compliance with social distancing norms and the wearing of masks. Using a combination of algorithms and camera footage, these solutions alert authorities and people when someone doesn’t adhere to the health care guidelines.

But there is still a limitation to using footage from surveillance cameras you can only monitor people in areas where these cameras are installed. In other words, if you want to ensure compliance in every nook and corner of a city with surveillance cameras, you will first need to make massive investments in setting up camera infrastructure. This is impossible in the short timeframe that the world has at this point.

Analytics in the sky

There is another solution, however, that many end customers are adopting – drones. Cameras fitted on drones can also capture footage that analytic solutions can use. A company that provides such a solution is the San Francisco-based Skylark Labs. Speaking to recently, Amarjot Singh, Founder and CEO of the company, explained why drones are an ideal solution in the current situation.

“When there were lockdowns, and people were not allowed to go out without wearing masks and not go out at all in the night, often the only option to ensure compliance is through monitoring through cameras,” Singh explained. “However, in many cities, there are not enough surveillance cameras in place, and this is where drones become relevant, which can monitor a very large area of a city quickly and identify people violating any curfew or lockdown rules. This was one thing we offered. A second thing was if you are allowed to go out, drones could monitor if you are maintaining social distancing.”

Once the drone captures video, it is automatically analyzed, an alert is raised, and a message is sent to the police. This message would contain information on where the violation is happening and an image of someone moving, based on which they can take action. Skylark’s analytic solutions are located in the cloud (AWS).

However, such a process could create privacy concerns in many countries. In some parts of the US, the police had to withdraw plans to use drones to monitor social distancing after fears of privacy violations surfaced. There are also several other concerns about crowd detection systems in public. 

However, Singh explained that this application doesn’t become a privacy concern as drones don’t capture clear images from far. The drones are only capturing the movement of people and not identifying them.

Beyond government customers

Such a solution that can monitor the movement of the people in a closed area may be useful even to private companies. Singh explains that in the US alone, several companies want to monitor people who are not their employees but need to come into the premises for any purpose. They may, for instance, want to make sure that these people are wearing masks. If a person not wearing a mask is detected, an image of their face is run through the database to see if they are an employee. The management can then contact them and ask them to wear a mask.

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