As the world grapples with the devastation of the coronavirus, one thing is clear: The United States simply wasn't prepared. Despite repeated warnings from infectious disease experts over the years, we lacked essential beds, equipment, and medication; public health advice was confusing; and our leadership offered no clear direction while sidelining credible health professionals and institutions. Infectious disease experts agree that it's only a matter of time before the next pandemic hits, and that one could be even more deadly. So how do we fix what COVID-19 has shown was broken? In this Mother Jones series, we're asking experts from a wide range of disciplines one question: What are the most important steps we can take to make sure we're better prepared next time around? On a hazy day in early March, a drone packaged in protective red casing and carrying precious cargo descended upon a crowd gathered in the Ashanti region of Ghana.
Fox News Flash top headlines are here. Check out what's clicking on Foxnews.com. Girl Scouts in Virginia are going high tech when it comes to delivering their seasonal cookies. According to Google's drone delivery company Wing, a local troop in the town of Christiansburg has been using its service to test cookie dispatch. Girl Scouts Alice Goerlich (right) and Gracie Walker (left) pose with a Wing delivery drone in Christiansburg, Va. on April 14, 2021.
Singapore is offering funds to help startups pilot projects for the maritime industry, which can also access sandboxes to test new technologies. A new zone also has been dedicated to testbed drone technologies for maritime applications, as the country navigates its ambition of becoming a global maritime startup hub. Technology had played an integral role in keeping the sector resilient during the COVID-19 outbreak and would continue to do so in a post-pandemic era, said Chee Hong Tat, Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport. To help the industry navigate this, it needed an environment that supported risk-taking and experimentation as well as collaborations with internal and external partners, Chee said. Speaking Tuesday at the Singapore Maritime Technology Conference, the minister said market players needed a conducive environment to test out new ideas and "a safe place [for experiments] to fail".
For the past few months, an independent board of technology experts has been closely tracking the new ways that AI and data have been used to counter and mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK; and now, they are lifting the veil on the good, the bad and the ugly of the past year in digital tech. The Center for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) has released a new report diving deep into the 118 individual use-cases for AI and data-driven technologies that have been added to the organization's COVID-19 repository since last November. Spanning vastly different sectors and locations, the examples collated in the document provide a unique vision of the ways that technology can help in a time of crisis. From piloting drones to delivering medical supplies, to monitoring the behavior of residents in public transport during the easing of lockdown restrictions: if there is one observation that all experts will agree on, it is certainly that technology has been a central pillar in the support of the response to the pandemic. "While public attention largely centred on high-profile applications aimed at either suppressing the virus or coping with its effects, our research highlights the breadth of applications beyond these two use-cases," says the report.
Drones have become a hit with consumers during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, market leader DJI has a new remote-controlled recreational drone that is easier to take on a first-person spin. To fly the DJI FPV (first-person view) drone, available today for $1,299, just don goggles and take in the scenic view as your high-speed drone zips along as fast as 87 mph. You can also control the drone with your hand motions by using a motion controller, sold separately for $199. Until now, most first-person view drones were hand-built or had goggles sold separately.
Drones are being used to carry Covid-19 test samples and other medical materials up to 40 miles (64km) across four locations in western Scotland. London drone firm Skyports has become the first operator to receive permission from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to carry diagnostic specimens by drone. Cargo – including test samples, medicine, personal protective equipment (PPE) and Covid-19 testing kits – is being transported by the drones in the Argyll & Bute region. A whole fleet of the drones are carrying up to 3kg of the supplies each, improving services for patients and healthcare staff in one of the UK's most remote areas. Drones can complete a journey that takes a whopping 36 hours by road and ferry to just 15 minutes, while increasing the frequency of pick-ups.
Drone company Swoop Aero, in partnership with Australian healthcare wholesaler Symbion and pharmacy retailer TerryWhite Chemmart, has announced plans to begin trialling the delivery of medication using drones. The trial, which remains subject to regulatory approval, will take place in the Queensland town of Goondiwindi. Swoop Aero's drone network will deliver medication within a 130-kilometre range of the town from the local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacy to residents who typically have to travel up to three hours to reach the pharmacy. "The drone will fly in and out of a central point in Goondiwindi with the flight path fully automated and approved by CASA [Australia's aviation regulator], deliver the customers products, then return to base ready for its next job. After a little training, it is very easy to operate," Swoop Aero CEO Eric Peck said.
The Northern Territory government, iMove Cooperative Research Centre, and Charles Darwin University (CDU) have announced plans to trial the use of drones for delivering healthcare services to remote communities across the state. The project, to be funded by all three parties, will initially investigate the logistical challenges of using drone technology to deliver health services in NT, including integrating drones into the current health transport infrastructure network, procuring airframes capable of withstanding the territory's wet and dry seasons, and developing drones with a maximum range of 250 kilometres. The investigative work will be carried out by a team at CDU, which is being led by associate professor Hamish Campbell. "The team at CDU will investigate the potential in using automated aircraft for the delivery of time-critical medical items to remote communities across the Northern Territory," CDU interim vice-chancellor and president Mike Wilson said. "Drones are already being used in healthcare in developing countries, however, we need to undertake research to understand where they can reduce costs and improve health care outcomes for remote communities in the Northern Territory."
In April, as COVID-19 cases exploded across the U.S. and local officials scrambled for solutions, a police department in Connecticut tried a new way to monitor the spread of the virus. One morning, as masked shoppers lined up 6 feet apart outside Trader Joe's in Westport, the police department flew a drone overhead to observe their social distancing and detect potential coronavirus symptoms, such as high temperature and increased heart rate. According to internal emails, the captain flying the mission wanted to "take advantage" of the store's line. But the store had no heads-up about the flight, and neither did the customers on their grocery runs, even though the drone technology managed to track figures both inside and outside. The drone program was unveiled a week later when the department announced its "Flatten the Curve Pilot Program" in collaboration with the Canadian drone company Draganfly, which was due to last through the summer. But less than 48 hours later after the program's public unveiling, the police department was forced to dump it amid intense backlash from Westport residents.