Looking Skyward: How drones might help in a pandemic

May 7, 2020: Imagine the next time the world faces another threat to human health like COVID-19, drones are ready to take to the skies to provide help. Some are able to quickly drop needed supplies, notify medical professionals to attend to those at risk, and safely disinfect hard-hit areas, while others employ cutting-edge technology like thermal sensors that can identify symptoms such as elevated body temperatures.

Meanwhile, drones enable shops, restaurants, businesses, and even schools to continue delivering essential goods and services from a distance, potentially saving countless lives.

Of course, that may sound like a great plot for a sci-fi movie. But how close is it to becoming a reality?

If the current pandemic has brought to light a silver lining, it’s that we can work together even from a distance to help protect our communities against COVID-19. While millions of us are doing our part staying at home and taking precautions when we venture out, some innovators are testing new approaches that may benefit us in the future.

Innovation takes flight

Since 2014, SkySkopes has been a trusted Drone Services Provider (DSP) for clients in industries like energy, utilities, transportation, and oil and gas, where workers are exposed to hazardous conditions. Named one of the top five DSP companies in the world by Frost & Sullivan, the Grand Forks, N.D.-based innovator is testing new, groundbreaking drone applications in partnership with the University of North Dakota, North Dakota State University, Grand Forks County, and the Research Institute for Autonomous Systems.

Because early detection has been proven effective in preventing the rapid spread of infections, SkySkopes is conducting research on drone technology that may be able to detect raised temperatures. Using advanced, commercially available Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) and thermal sensors on the ground, SkySkopes checks participants for body heat that could indicate symptoms consistent with the novel coronavirus.

They're also testing the use of drones for touch-free delivery of necessities and medical supplies, as well as the sanitation of playgrounds by cleaning surfaces with disinfectants that afterward are not harmful to human health.

Scaling to new heights

SkySkopes has always known that drones have the capability to solve some of humanity's most pressing problems—if they can be scaled efficiently. Early in their program, SkySkopes used spreadsheets and various other tools to manage their drone program. But as the company grew and systems became more complex, they needed a single platform to manage their entire aviation operations.

That's why they turned to Skyward, A Verizon company.

Skyward and SkySkopes

Skyward helps companies in every industry see clearly, act intelligently, and fly with confidence through software and consulting services designed to power safety, efficiency, and access to airspace.

“The platform-agnostic fashion of Skyward is extremely beneficial,” says SkySkopes President and CEO Matt Dunlevy. “Being able to just reach into your pocket, to see what you need to see and schedule what you need to schedule with your teams is an indispensable feature. There just isn’t a way to scale without something like Skyward.”

For more than four years, SkySkopes has relied on Skyward to manage its drone program from a single platform accessible from any device at any time. As a leading authority on safe, efficient drone operations, Skyward’s software and expert guidance helps SkySkopes oversee everything from teams and equipment to projects and flights. Skyward also helps the company manage operational data and make it easy for pilots to comply with aviation regulations.

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