While its rate of infections is still quite low, India is getting very aggressive in tackling the new coronavirus. Along with using drones to chase down people who break stay-at-home orders, it’s now developing powerful COVID-19 disinfectant drones to kill the virus. With cities full of narrow, windy streets, India presents a challenge for large-scale disinfection operations. But drones can penetrate tight spaces to deliver chemical and ultraviolet-based sanitization.
Instead of adapting existing consumer and commercial drones for the task, the Indian government claims to be building its own special-purpose COVID-19 disinfectant drones. The effort is headed by the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, a branch of the Army. However, this limits the speed at which it can turn out drones.
Sprays vs. rays
First up is a drone that sprays disinfectant over a wide area (certainly not the first of its kind). The quadcopter can carry 5 liters (about 1.3) gallons of disinfectant and spray from up to about 30 feet up. This allows the drone to sanitize an open area the size of a football field in about 5 minutes, says the army.
Using its own resources, though, the Corps can produce only two of these drones per week—in a country of about 1.35 billion people. However, the army tells news publication ThePrint that it is open to collaborations with private industry to ramp up output of the products it designs.
The second COVID-19 disinfectant drone utilizes short-wavelength ultraviolet C light (another idea we’ve seen before). This is not the kind of UV light you experience at the beach (which is almost entirely Ultraviolet A and B). It’s a much more powerful form that can penetrate into viruses and bacteria to destroy the nucleic acids inside. The army claims shining a light from 6 inches away will kill 99.9% of pathogens in just 20 seconds. It can turn out 10 of these drones per day, working on its own. Private-sector collaboration could speed us this pace, as well.
Regardless, it’s going to take a while to produce enough COVID-19 disinfectant drones to make a dent on the coronavirus contamination in such a large country. But this crisis will not be ending anytime soon. The threat of infection could drag on for years, leaving lots of time to develop and produce new tools for the fight.