Today drones are growing in popularity as they're being used for a lot of different things (e.g. photography, videography, map making, fishing). There have even been rumors that you may soon have your temperature taken by a drone.
Drones are being used today in the medical field as well as in the fight against COVID-19. This is because they can be equipped with thermal cameras that are just as accurate as if you were to have your temperature taken by a human. They're also being used to measure things like heart rate too.
Drones Measuring Body Temperature
Drones are being used in many different places and in many different ways today. While many of us have grown accustomed to seeing them help with monitoring, rescue missions, sports events, firefighting, and aerial photography, drones are also now being used to measure human temperature. This is because drones can be equipped with thermal sensors and smart vision technology.
The reason why this technology works is because it can capture an object's surface temperature. So, when you have this technology attached to your drone and the drone spots a person the drone can then read the person's temperature. In Canada, Dragonfly has built such a drone and this drone's advanced algorithm technology has proven quite accurate in measuring people's temperature.
For quite some time now, drones have been used in this way to help people with their medical needs. There are a lot of countries that are currently using drones to combat the spread of COVID-19. Many of these drones don't only measure a person's temperature but they can also measure their heart rate and detect whether social distancing protocols are being followed.
The Accuracy of Drones Measuring Body Temperature
A healthy person's body temperature is around 97 F (36.1 C) – 99 F (37.2 C). However, normal conditions are rare since you encounter a variety of variables during the drone's flight (e.g. wind, outdoor temperature, camera stabilization). Unfortunately, this could mean the difference of two degrees which could mean that someone who's healthy appears to be sick. This is why it's so important for drones to be used cautiously when used in determining whether or not someone may have COVID-19.
How Thermal Cameras Measure Body Temperature
Drones can be used to measure a lot of different things. Besides body temperature, they can also be used to measure a person's heart rate and tell whether or not they're following social distancing protocols. This is all thanks to infrared technology – something that's been in use for quite a while now. The only "real" change that's occurred is that now this technology has been attached to drones. This elevates drones from when they were doing things like conducting search missions to find lost people and nighttime surveillance to now where they're interacting with people.
Now that drones are being used to take body temperature they must be equipped with thermal cameras and sensors. It's the different levels of infrared light that the drone is able to capture and process that'll tell you what a person's temperature is. While this isn't a type of light that can be seen by humans, it does contain heat, especially when there's a lot of this light being emitted. Since every object gives off some infrared rays the drone's software will be able to measure a person's temperature. However, the drone won't be able to identify who the person is so their identity will be protected.
Initially, drones with thermal cameras attached to them were being used in other industries. For instance, these cameras could be used in measuring the temperature of a house or a building in order to determine whether there was a temperature leak present. This is something that was very easy to see, especially throughout the winter months when there's a major difference between the indoor temperature of a home and the outdoor temperature of the environment. Police were also using these drones to find fugitives at night.
The Legalities of Using Drones to Measure Body Temperature
Once you understand how drones can be used in monitoring a person's body temperature, you may still have some questions regarding the legalities of drones being used in this way. To begin with, you should know that there are strict laws prohibiting the flight of drones over populated areas. However, there have been some new measures introduced recently that allow for drones that are being used to measure body temperature to be an exception to this rule.
One of the first countries that have been using a lot of drones in this way is Italy. With the use of drones, they've discovered that it's faster and easier to take the temperature of a lot of their residents – even those who'd otherwise be challenging to locate due to access issues. This is one of the main reasons why drones are being approved for use in this manner today.
Challenges Facing Temperature-Taking Drones
One of the main issues concerning drones taking people's temperature has to do with distance. In order for a thermographic camera to get an accurate reading, it has to be able to see a certain number of pixels on a person's face. This is why these drones try to get a clear image of the corner of a person's eye. However, in order to do this, the camera needs to be close to the person.
One of the leading manufacturers of thermal cameras for drones, FLIR says that their camera should only be 39 inches away from a person in order to get an accurate temperature reading. This is why FLIR doesn't market its cameras for use in the medical field.
While you may argue that you could simply fly the drone closer to the person whose temperature you need to take, this won't necessarily help either. Of course, most people won't want a drone flying that close to them anyway. This is why drones will only fly up to 39 inches away from a person. Additionally, we must remember that the United States says it's illegal for a drone to fly directly over the top of people.
You'll also have issues with camera stabilization, the wind, and outdoor temperature. Unfortunately, given these variables, the use of thermographic cameras for measuring a person's temperature isn't very accurate. Readings generally fall in the range of +/-41 degrees Fahrenheit. There's simply too great of a range of accuracy to be able to detect a small difference in a human's fever especially considering the FDA recommends that fever-screening devices have an accuracy of +/- 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The difference that's being seen today is the same one that you'd be able to get if you were to mount a thermographic camera onto a pole and let people walk by it.
Furthermore, there's no proof that you can even use a drone to accurately screen multiple people for fevers at once regardless of whether the drone is able to remain stationary or not. Although COVID-19 has led the FDA to relax some of its regulations regarding the use of thermal cameras it still maintains the idea that this technology should only be used to take the temperature of one subject at a time.
These are just some of the factors that must be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not drones should be used to take people's temperatures today.
Other Uses of Drones in the Medical Field
Even if drones aren't accurate enough to take a person's temperature there are still a lot of ways the medical field can benefit from their use. Drones make it possible to deliver medical supplies to rural areas. They can also quickly reach victims who are in dire need of immediate medical attention. Some hospitals are already using drones to transport things like blood and medication inside of hospital walls. There are still a lot of great things that drones can do within the medical field even if they can't be used to accurately measure a person's temperature – many of which will save on the cost of healthcare.
Drones have been around for quite some time and their technology is continuing to advance. In normal conditions (inside a building) drones can accurately take a person's temperature. Today more drones are being used to help with healthcare than ever before and there are a lot of people who believe that their use in this way will continue to grow in the years to come.
Drones have been around for quite a while and have greatly advanced from the fun little toys they once were. Today's drones are being used for many different purposes. The medical field is just one example of areas that are making use of drones. Not only have drones been deployed in the fight against COVID-19 but they can be equipped with a thermal camera that can take your temperature. Since this is just as accurate as when humans take your temperature, it's likely we'll see a lot more drones being used in the medical field in the near future.
Shawn Manaher loves to play with new toys and dive into new hobbies. As a serial entrepreneur, work definitely comes first but there is always room for hobbies.