Since emerging in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, the new COVID-19 coronavirus has spread around the world. As of yesterday (20 February), the death toll in mainland China was 2 121, with 74 675 confirmed cases.

As the outbreak grew, so did public questions and concerns. How far would the virus spread? How can people protect themselves?

To help address those fears and resolve the crisis, public safety officials in China explored how to use new technologies — and DJI has stepped up to that challenge with drones.

Together with agricultural technology think tanks, DJI has been working to fight the disease.

On 4 February, the company pledged almost $1,5-million in aid to help contain the outbreak. It has also adapted its Agras series of agricultural spraying drones to spray disinfectant in potentially affected areas.

Drones could dramatically improve how China attempts to kill the virus in public areas: they can cover far more ground than traditional methods, while reducing risk to workers who would otherwise spend more time potentially exposed to both the virus and the disinfectant.

After rounds of research and testing, teams have developed best practices for spraying a chlorine or ethyl alcohol-based disinfectant from the air. The concentration of the solution as well as flight guidelines can be modified for different circumstances, such as whether an area is known to be infected or not.

DJI has sprayed disinfectant in over 3-million square meters in Shenzhen. The company is also helping 1 000 counties in China to adopt the spraying method.

Target areas include factories, residential areas, hospitals, and waste treatment plants. In total, this covers 600-million square metres across the country so far.

“Assisting in the containment of a disease, while ensuring safety to personnel, was very difficult to do in the past,” says Romeo Durscher, senior director of public safety integration at DJI. “This was a complete grassroots movement. Users inspired us to take action, and it was worth the effort. It embodies the DJI spirit, where anyone with the access to these new tools can help improve their environment and help society.”

These past few weeks have given people a chance to discover new ways to curb the spread of Covid-19 in China. Loudspeakers were mounted on drones to help disperse public gatherings in crowded places. Drones flew banners advising people how to learn more about precautions. Thermal cameras on drones were also used to monitor body temperature so medical staff can identify new potential cases.

Drone delivery is another popular topic. The outbreak has kept millions of families in their homes to avoid contact with others. A huge help to these households can come in the form of contactless delivery. Organisations can send food, supplies and medicine to anyone in need. At the same time, avoiding face-to-face contact will cut the risk of infection.