It was not long ago that drones began to appear to the consumer who is not a professional, whether to see if the roof has all the tiles after a windstorm or even to record the holidays from a different angle. Controversial with regulations and rights aside, small aircraft with fixed wings, or not, are also helping when it comes to fighting the coronavirus.
First of all, let’s filter the wing term. There are basically two types of drones in the world, the first and most popular being called a multi-engine, which is that aircraft that looks more like a helicopter with four sets of propellers. The second, less common in the market, is the fixed wing and it has the face of an airplane.
As in aviation, each type of drone has its advantages and disadvantages. While multirotors can stop in the air and take off from a fixed point, vertically, fixed-wing models are launched or need a runway. The advantage of fixed wings is that these drones can continue for longer, since the wings guarantee greater support in the air and this causes battery consumption to drop, with some models going beyond two hours of autonomy.
Want an example of huge autonomy in fixed wing? The Global Hawk is a fixed-wing drone created by Northrop Grumman, which uses a Rolls-Royce turbofan engine and has a range of 22,780 kilometers, at a maximum speed of 629 km / h, which is enough to give more than half a turn in the Land without stopping to refuel – it is not powered by batteries.
They are also capable of covering greater distances in the models for the people themselves, while the multirotor covers a smaller area, which may have more obstacles and navigation in indoor environments is already possible almost without problems.
Okay, what’s going on in them besides the cameras?
Both models can come off the ground with a load and it can be much larger than just a camera, along with the battery and sensors that are needed for remote controls with some assistance. DJI’s MG-1P, for example, is a multi-engine that uses eight engines and can lift with a tank with a capacity of 10 liters of anything you want, respecting the weight of 10 kilos of maximum load.
It was designed to be used in agriculture and offers three kilometers of range for high-resolution cameras, with a control that can operate up to five aircraft at the same time. Without video feedback, all drones can be visually controlled for up to three miles.
Use during the pandemic
It was exactly this type of drone, a multirotor with tank attached to the body, that has been used more directly to combat the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. Initiatives that take place in cities like Ampére (PR) and Porto Alegre (RS).
There, users of a platform that brings together operators of crop spray drones, called VOA, use a solution of disinfectants based on water, chlorine or benzalkonium chloride and that are sprayed in public areas of the city, such as squares and streets.
The spraying range is 20 hectares, or 200 thousand square meters. The same VOA, in partnership with Farma Conde, is operating 16 aircraft in São José dos Campos (SP), three in Osasco (SP) and used four of its aircraft to disinfect the Corinthians Arena and 500 km of streets and public spaces in the around the stadium, while the Secretariat of Urban Services of Cuiabá (MT) uses three of these drones for the same function.
In Porto Alegre (RS) the product used is quite similar and was produced by the Institute of Chemistry at UFRGS. In the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, the spraying targets are bus stops, places of great circulation and areas of difficult access.
In Paraisópolis, the largest community in the state of São Paulo (SP), eight drones are also spraying chlorine-based disinfectants to clean alleys and areas where other means of spreading the product cannot easily reach. Other solutions with the same type of drone are in use in an area of 400 kilometers in the cities of Caraguatatuba, São Sebastião, Ilhabela and Ubatuba.
The spray compound helps, but not alone
In a chat with Tecnoblog, Gilberto Martin Berguio, a sanitary doctor and professor at the School of Medicine of the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR), says that “whatever measure we manage to take, it is always positive”. “The compound helps in hygiene, as a product that helps in diluting the lipid membrane and that can kill the virus”, says Berguio.
For him, the action is very positive for reaching areas where traditional hygiene has difficulties to reach, but does not eliminate the need for cleaning with soap and water. In addition, the doctor warns of the risk that the action will decrease the precaution that people need to take.
“Not even just wearing a mask can control the disease. Sanitize the environments, from water and soap on the floor, alcohol 70 on the tables, all these measures add up. Most visible measures [como os drones] they can make people relax others like a mask, water and soap in their hands, a meter and a half of distance between each one and only leave when necessary ”.
Chlorine can still cause problems such as allergy in some people, even intoxication – depending on the dilution that is made. It is complementary, just like alcohol gel is for soap and water. “It has to be part of the combo, it can’t be alone”
“A complex effect can have a lesser solution than the simplest. There is still no product that you pass in the environment and in two or three hours it will be free, ”concludes the doctor.
Eyes and alerts from the skies
In Palmas (TO) the military police chose another type of use, which goes more to surveillance than spraying. A drone of the Mavic line flies over areas of the city to observe the behavior of citizens in places of great agglomeration. The idea is to offer visual support to troops on the ground.
Utinga (BA) and João Pessoa (PB) follow the same example and started to adopt a drone that monitors the fulfillment of the social distance of its residents. Recife (PE) uses three Mavic 2 Enterprise Duals equipped with an infrared camera to monitor the temperature of people in areas of great circulation, with the help of researchers from the Federal University of Pernambuco and the Institute for the Reduction of Risks and Disasters of Pernambuco. People with a temperature of 38 degrees or more are monitored. All of these drones in Recife also use loudspeakers to talk to anyone who does not respect social distance. Strategy similar to that of the São Sebastião City Hall, on the coast of São Paulo.
An example that became famous was that of Rio de Janeiro (RJ), where the City Hall has been using the same drone model, only without the infrared camera and that has the job of reminding people that they should be at home, besides remembering that the use of the mask makes contagion difficult. The Rio de Janeiro strategy is also used in Praia Grande, on the coast of São Paulo.
Fixed wing has another potential
Since surveillance and disinfection are more widely used, fixed-wing drones are less important, but they can still appear here and there. Antônio Pedro Timoszczuk, a member of the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers (IEEE), recalls that this type of aircraft was already used in 2019 by the American company Zipline for delivering blood tests in Ghana.
“These drones delivered blood and other materials to rural areas in Ghana in a few minutes,” explains Timoszczuk in an interview with Tecnoblog. The great autonomy and range of action help at this moment, since making the same car delivery would take hours, in addition to involving more people in an action that transports biohazardous material.
Zipline has been in the logistics business with fixed-wing drones since 2016 and has worked with contracts with hospitals, but now the number of calls has increased and so has the load, ranging from blood tests, vaccines and even medical supplies. delivered in more remote areas.
Even if walking towards the beginning of the end of the quarantine (it will still take time, it will be for me), it is clear that drones can be more allied and useful than just in a more connected crop or with curious eyes from the sky. The use of multirotors is more practical and should continue to do so with models with increasingly greater autonomy and load capacity, mainly due to their more compact size than the fixed wing models.
Finally, there is a tip well conveyed by Gilberto Martin Berguio: the drone over there splashing some compost that disinfects the place doesn’t make the area safer to the point where you can relax your personal care, okay? Mask on the face (not on the neck, in the pocket and much less hanging from the ear), clean hands and distance between people are even more important.