Three alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) have developed a drone equipped with infrared camera which can help in thermal screening of groups without human intervention and identify suspected COVID-19 cases at an early stage once the lockdown is lifted.

The drone also has a loudspeaker which can be used by personnel to monitor places especially with high disease prevalence and give appropriate instructions.

The alumni team from IIT Guwahati, which has founded a start up called Marut Dronetech, is already conducting trial runs in coordination with state governments of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh besides Trichy Municipal Corporation.

“Once the lockdown is eased, and people start gathering it will be difficult to ensure social distancing and hence enhanced risk of virus spread till the time situation is completely in control,” Prem Kumar Vislawath, an electronic and communications engineering graduate, told PTI.

“Drones are being made for lot of other activities including delivery of foods and medicines and spraying disinfectants, we realised that to limit the risk of the personnel getting infected while conducting temperature checks, drones equipped with infrared cameras to test temperature measurements can be used,” he said.

“Any abnormalities can be marked as suspects for COVID-19. This information can be used by health workers and officials to take further measures. This will help in the identification of infection in a person at a much early stage and can prove to be vital in the present scenario,” he added.

According to another team member, Suraj Peddi, the group tested different ways to calibrate airborne infrared cameras to measure body temperature.

“Results showed that by installing a cotton swab within the field of view of the thermal camera, the camera can get an accurate reading. The calibrated drone camera can then be used to measure body temperatures while the officer remains at a safe distance away. While the results are encouraging, it is essential to mention this solution is not designed to be used for standard medical procedures,” he added.

Elaborating on the development, another team member Sai Kumar Chinthala, said, “At a time when countries across the world are submitting to mass lockdowns owing to the ongoing pandemic, drones have emerged as a fresh breath of air, by proving to be an alternative and plausible lifeline for stranded populations advised social-distancing”.

According to the Union Health Ministry, the number of COVID-19 cases climbed to 2,301 in the country on Wednesday while the death toll rose to 56,