Drone to find virus being developed in SA

Emily Cosenza

A pandemic drone, that monitors temperature, heart and respiratory rates, is being developed to detect the coronavirus.

Fitted with specialised sensors and a computer vision system, the drone can also detect people sneezing or coughing in crowds or indoor places where people congregate, like offices, airports or cruise ships.

It's the work of a team from the University of South Australia, led by Defence Chair of Sensor Systems Professor Javaan Chahl, who have partnered with Canadian drone technology company Draganfly.

Professor Chahl said the technology was originally envisaged for war zones, natural disasters and remotely monitoring heart rates of premature babies in incubators.

"Now we see a need for its use immediately, to help save lives in the biggest health catastrophe the world has experienced in the past 100 years," he said.

"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."

Prof Chahl previously helped develop image-processing technology to detect a human's heart rate from drone video and more recently algorithms to interpret human actions such as sneezing and coughing.

Draganfly chief Cameron Chell said the technology would be available to government, medical and commercial customers.

"Health and respiratory monitoring will be vital not only for detection but also to understand health trends," Mr Chell said.