Pandemic Could Spark Medical Drone Revolution
May 14, 2020
The Media Line — The coronavirus pandemic could spark a revolution in the use of drones in the medical sector, with the technology being used for everything from delivering medication in rural areas to taking patients’ vitals and ensuring social distancing in public spaces.
Dr. Jessica Cauchard, an assistant professor in BGU’s Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, is a pioneer in the nascent field of human-drone interaction. She sees the COVID-19 crisis as helping accelerate and widen the applications of drones in a number of fields.
“The technology is ready and we have the ability to do many things that have not yet really been tested with people,” Dr. Cauchard says.
“We’re seeing a technological shift – almost like a revolution – in how drones are being used.”
Together with Dr. Stav Shapira, a researcher in BGU’s School of Public Health, Dr. Cauchard is conducting research on how to best design and implement the technology for populations in Israel that might be less accepting of it, such as the elderly and ultra-Orthodox Jews, among others.
“The whole idea of my research is to think about how people can interact with drones and understand them so that they can sustainably remain in use in human spaces,” Dr. Cauchard explains.
She adds that during a pandemic, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can prove especially beneficial “to deliver medications or supplies to people who can’t leave their homes, or support those who can’t go outside, such as by delivering groceries.”
While privacy concerns remain an issue, Dr. Cauchard believes that “if people can understand that the drone is here to help and that it is not going to cause them any harm, there’s no reason they shouldn’t accept them.”
Dr. Shapira believes that one potential problem is the thorny issue of patient-doctor confidentiality. Still, she maintains that UAVs represent the future of healthcare not only in terms of logistics, but also in terms of telemedicine.
“They can help in so many ways, not only for emergencies, but also for routine medical [scenarios],” says Dr. Shapira. “You can also put a device on a drone that can take vital measures to get really important information without patients leaving their home.”
During a pandemic, such as the one currently sweeping the world, drone deliveries could clearly minimize the exposure of at-risk populations.