UAE sets benchmark in use of drone technology against Covid-19
The UAE's relentless drive to become one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world has been a major contributor in helping it combat the spread of Covid-19, experts say.
The country's willingness to embrace new technologies, especially drones, has been a major factor in controlling the spread of the virus and keeping residents safe, technology manufacturers noted.
"The UAE is a technology pioneer," Rashid Al Ghurair, techpreneur and founder of CAFU, told Khaleej Times. "From smart government services, 3D printing, or drone technology, we find ourselves at the epicenter of smart city living. As the Covid-19 crisis unfolds, technology continues to become an even more essential part of our daily lives, helping us to reduce daily interactions."
Drone technology in particular, he said, holds "huge potential" for managing crisis. "It is in times like these, we benefit the most from the vision of the UAE government. Today drones are used to not only monitor the movement of its residents for their own safety but are used to disinfect public spaces."
Monica Suk, senior communication manager at DJI, said that the company has been working with a number of organisations to not only implement methods proven to be effective at addressing health and safety, but also to test new methods which may have potential.
"In the UAE, we've seen drones used by local government entities for a range of use cases, including sterilisation techniques in Dubai, or broadcasting and monitoring measures in Sharjah. These practices are proving essential in ensuring public safety is maintained as far as possible," she said. "We commend the collective efforts of the UAE's government bodies and residents, who have truly united in their efforts to tackle Covid-19. Going forward, harnessing the power of technologies such as drones will continue to be crucial in ensuring that communication, visibility, and safety are maintained."
Asked if investments in drone technology will accelerate to meet the need of the hour, Suk said: "It's fair to say that the UAE is a very forward-thinking nation, which embraces the latest trends and innovations with open arms. From our own experience as an organisation, we know first-hand how keen the UAE is to work with drones and leverage their potential. Last year, we announced a Solution Development Partnership with Dubai Police to test and deploy DJI drones as tools in aiding public safety professionals. With safety and healthcare key components of the national agenda, we may well see the exploration of further use cases for drones across these verticals in the coming month and years."
Rabih Bou Rashid, CEO of UAE-based Falcon Eye Drones Services (FEDS), had a similar train of thought and said that drones have always been associated with safety. In the past, the technology was utilised in various methods and industries, especially by the government authorities.
"However, they have proven to be even more vital in the current scenario - filling up the gap that was left when social distancing was implemented. Drones are now acting as frontliners across the globe as they provide services on behalf of humans and help safeguard the well-being of health workers and residents in general. In the UAE, drones which were used to spray disinfectants in agricultural fields are now being used to disinfect the streets," Bou Rashid said.
The industry, he noted, was already a booming one with many recognising the benefits to both health & safety and the economy. "Today's unfortunate events bring this closer to a wider audience opening the door to more acceleration. It will also show the regulators the importance of this technology and they will be speeding up the Beyond Line of Sight (BVLOS) certification which will allow us to do more especially in the sense of mobility and logistics. Today this will help to reach a quarantined area to send food and medicine to closed-off neighbourhoods and in the future, it can be our new mailman or flying car."
Al Ghurair also looked back on the success of the technology across various sectors. Last year, the company launched its Ghaf Tree Drone Project as part of its ongoing CSR campaign to plant one million Ghaf trees. Custom-built drones were deployed to plant tree seeds in the fight against climate change.
"In the initial phase of the project, we have jointly planted 4,000 Ghaf tree seeds with the use of specialised drones in Sharjah," he said. "The dedicated area is being monitored to evaluate the projects early success."