To help fight COVID-19, North Dakota university and industry researchers are looking for ways a drone can quickly sanitize playgrounds, deliver supplies and detect people's temperature from a distance, according to a MPR News report.

Mark Askelson, executive director of research at the University of North Dakota Institute for Autonomous Systems, told the MPR News, "We just need to understand how we can use these advanced technologies to help communities deal with a very tough situation like the one we're in right now."

Thermal sensors on a drone can detect elevated body temperature, one symptom of COVID-19, says the report. "This is being done in Australia right now, where the thermal sensors can detect if someone has an elevated body temperature from a distance," said SkySkopes president Matt Dunlevy. He added that researchers are being very careful to protect privacy during the testing. "We're not just going with abandon out into the public and pointing sensors at people to see if they've got a fever that could be symptomatic of COVID." 

According to Dunlevy, drones could be used to scan people entering a hospital or factory to identify those with elevated body temperatures for additional screening and can also help move medical supplies quickly over short distances. A drone, Dunlevy says, could be used “if there's a checkpoint where people are testing and they want to send blood samples back as the crow flies with immediacy, (or) the rapid distribution of a vaccine via drone someday would also be another way to get the nation back online.”

Askelson says the pandemic could accelerate the wide adoption of drone use. 

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