The problem

COVID-19 is the biggest health crisis the world has experienced in the past 100 years, causing millions of deaths worldwide, crippling societies, and deeply impacting businesses and jobs. As the COVID-19 death toll mounts and the world hangs its hopes on effective vaccines, what else can we do to save lives in this pandemic? 

The solution

In UniSA’s case, collaborate on world-first technology that combines engineering, drones, cameras, and artificial intelligence to monitor people’s vital health signs remotely.

In 2020, a UniSA team led by Professor Javaan Chahl joined forces with the world’s oldest commercial drone manufacturer, Draganfly Inc, to develop technology that remotely detects the key symptoms of COVID-19 – breathing and heart rates, temperature, and blood oxygen levels.

Within months, the technology had moved from drones to security cameras and kiosks, scanning vital health signs in 15 seconds and adding social distancing software to the mix.

Draganfly CEO Cameron Chell was delighted with the partnership outcome: 

“We came to UniSA with a fantasy… a customer request that we wanted to accomplish. Javaan and his team then helped us to develop the brief, the roadmap and the product design. How we developed the product from there was a series of meetings on a strategic, code and product level.

The key thing was that UniSA didn’t sit back and wait for a list of requirements… they had a keen understanding of how both public safety and security really worked and what the product would need to do.

Collaborating with a partner on the other side of the world with a really tight deadline has been fantastic. We were really worried going into the project, but we could run a 24-hour cycle of development and discussions – while one party is working the other is sleeping, and vice versa. It’s been a really collaborative approach.”

Cameron Chell
CEO, Draganfly

Drones flying over a field

In September 2020, Alabama State University became the first higher education institution in the world to use the technology to spot COVID-19 symptoms in its staff and students and enforce social distancing, ensuring they had one of the lowest COVID infection rates on any US campus. ASU President, Quinton T. Ross, Jr., described the software as a “godsend”.

“This software developed by UniSA has been a godsend for us here at Alabama State University. Our positivity rate has been less than 2% on campus all year long, with faculty staff and students. We truly believe that having stations set up where students could check their temperature and symptoms has helped us gather information and helped students identify their symptoms and immediately go to our health centre.”

The collaboration between UniSA and its North American drone partner is helping to address a major threat to humanity – health security – and usher in a new era of telehealth.

Partners involved

Draganfly Innovations Inc. logo

Project outcomes

World-first technology to remotely detect COVID-19 symptoms

Adaptable to drones or stationary cameras

Machine vision innovation with many potential applications

Related services

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