Drones and robots: How TN govt is using tech to tackle COVID-19

The Tamil Nadu government is relying on technology to minimise the exposure of sanitation and healthcare workers to the virus.
Drones and robots: How TN govt is using tech to tackle COVID-19
Drones and robots: How TN govt is using tech to tackle COVID-19
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The rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Tamil Nadu has made authorities scramble to put in place effective measures to contain the spread of the virus. From complete lockdowns to banning the delivery of cooked food, the government of Tamil Nadu is going all out to ensure that the virus is stopped in its tracks. Trying times like these also come with the opportunity to think out of the box to solve problems.

It is on these lines that the government of Tamil Nadu has been expressing interest in harnessing technology like drones and robots to minimise the exposure of sanitation and healthcare workers to the virus. For example, recently Garuda Aerospace, a Chennai-based tech company, received a work order from the government of Tamil Nadu to use their drones to spray disinfectants in public places across the state.

Disinfecting through drones

Garuda Aerospace focuses on building Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) for multiple purposes. According to Agnishwar Jayaprakash, the Managing Director of the company, the original idea of building the drones which will be used for disinfecting Tamil Nadu’s public spaces was to help spray pesticides and fertilisers over farmlands. “It was a minor tweak we had to do on the machines to make it suitable for spraying disinfectants too,” he adds.

Drone-based disinfection minimises the risk of conservancy workers of the government coming in contact with the virus. It is also more efficient than a human being in terms of the time it can work for and the places it can disinfect. “Our drones are designed to fly till at a height of 150 metres, thus it can effectively disinfect even high rise buildings. Where a worker can cover just four or five kilometres a day, the machines can easily do 20 kilometres a day,” he explains.

Equipped with an overall fleet of 300 drones and 500 pilots who will operate these drones across 26 Indian cities, Garuda will deploy 30 drones exclusively for Tamil Nadu’s needs.

Robots as attenders

Gone are the days when robots served customers in themed restaurants. Now it is time for robots to take up the mantle and help COVID-19 patients get their food and medicines on time.

Chennai’s Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH) has signed up to deploy two robots in its coronavirus ward to serve food and medicines to the patients who have been isolated in the ward. “They will be functional from next week in the isolation ward. The aim is to minimise exposure of our doctors and nurses to the virus. We had conducted a trial run recently and it was successful,” Dr Jayanthi, the Dean of RGGGH told TNM.

The hospital will initially put two robots in place, which will be connected to the nurses stations and the doctors stations, according to the dean. “The robots will have sensors which will ring the bell once it reaches outside the patients’ rooms. The patient can come and collect the food at that point. If he or she has any doubt or need to speak to the nurse, they can do so through the communication mechanism fitted in the robot,” Dr Jayanthi said.

Keeping things basic

Apart from new generation technology, the government of Tamil Nadu has also been relying on mobile applications to keep a watch on those who have been quarantined at home. District administrations have also urged people to use telephones to order groceries and get them delivered to their doorstep, so that they don’t step out of their houses during the lockdown. 

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