Corona Virus Side Effects – A Springboard for Innovation?

In such difficult uncertain times it’s hard to plan the next few days, let alone the next few months.

When reports about a new virus emanating from China trickled through in December 2019 very few of us would have envisaged the situation we find ourselves in today. As I write this I am working from my home office away from my colleagues and running the business thanks to 21st century technology. Trying to understand how we got to this situation and when this may all end is a fruitless task so we are forced to use the tools available to continue to operate .


Social distancing, a concept that was unfamiliar to the vast majority of us, could according to some medical and health professionals, be implemented, depending on how the virus may resurface, several times over the next 18 months. These continuing social distancing measures are designed to protect the public and aid in eradicating the virus completely. Drones have already shown their worth in the fight for social distancing during this crisis by helping clear the streets in Madrid and ensuring the public are following the rules laid down by their respective governments. As has been proven, a percentage of these type of control measures can all take place remotely by drone, without putting people and delicate resources in harm’s way.


The ability to make deliveries with drones is still beyond our capability. Although the concept is proven, due to regulation it’s unable to help through this crisis. In similar situations in the future this would offer a welcoming lifeline for the vulnerable who are isolated at home, could this help alleviate the queues at supermarkets?  Also, the BBC ran a story about the potentially hazardous process of disinfecting and how there is a chance this can be done from a drone. This is all conceptual of course, but it is evidence that during times of crisis often great innovations and inventions are born and realised. Changing public perception of innovation is also a challenge. As Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motors, famously said, “ If I had asked the public what they wanted they would have said a faster horse.” People are, as a whole, resistant to change. Education is crucial in changing this paradigm as are the media when they report on such issues.


A British Police force recently caused some controversy when they released drone footage of people strolling around on the Peak district ‘getting some exercise’. In response, posts were published on social media stating that the UK was turning into a Police state and that these individuals were only conducting allowable exercise. The truth was that these individuals were miles from their own homes and putting an unnecessary strain on local services trying to cope with the lockdown. Despite the real explanations a proportion of the public saw it as a step too far.


We are barely a week into the UK’s lockdown and already people are flaunting the governments mandate. You will, unfortunately, always get a minority who think they know best in times like these, we see it every day on social media. This is dangerous and may cost lives, how do the authorities ensure that people are obeying the rules? Strong financial penalties would of course deter people from the temptation of unnecessarily leaving their homes. What in times of crisis (and I stress in times of crisis) we had the ability to utilise a larger drone? One that could sit over a large city or town with multi sensors that could conduct such services as Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) if it detected a lot of unnecessary movement on the ground. I can see straight away how the very thought of this would strike abject fear into the few protestors who would automatically picture a false image of a killer robot flying autonomously corralling people by force. However if you think about it it’s no different from a Police Helicopter except that it’s cheaper, quieter and has a much greater endurance. Providing they adhere to the twelve guiding principles of CCTV what’s the issue?


However, without getting too carried away on drones, one must prioritise in such times of strife. The real important innovations and acts of creativity are taking place right now. Mercedes Formula One team in conjunction with a consortium have managed to rapidly develop a respiratory device called the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) this shows incredible agility in supplying the front line what they need. Hopefully, other shortages such as PPE and COVID-19 testing kits will have similar outcomes.


The country, as a whole, is still communicating. You only have to look at the rise of video conferencing applications such as MS Teams and Zoom. Like drones, these applications aren’t new. Their usefulness has just been brought to the fore by current events and necessity. When this has passed how many face to face meetings will be cancelled in favour of an online process which has become more familiar? Without the need to physically travel from A to B for a meeting, would without doubt, have positive implications for the environment.


This is the biggest crisis this country has faced since WW2 but look at what innovation was born from that conflict, instant coffee, superglue and the jet engine to name but a few. Hopefully we will look back at this as a bad memory in six months’ time. But as Newton discovered every action has an equal and opposite reaction and they’ll be many lessons learnt, new technologies created and new ways of operating. I’m convinced drones we’ll be part of the positives.


At RUSTA we believe that as soon as this dreadful unprecedented crisis has passed, and it will, the drone industry will be stronger and in more demand than ever before and we therefore must plan accordingly.


If you’ve been furloughed and are sat at home why not contact us and see how we can help you. Perhaps you might have some questions about unmanned technologies or might be interested in learning more.


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