About Autonomous Drone Disinfection for Covid-19 in Smart Cities

Problem our Project Solves

How can Smart Cities today deal with the issue of efficient, recurrent and reliable large-scale disinfection of public spaces and buildings like hospitals and retail centers to contain Covid-19 knowing that such spaces are the most common and deadly hot spots, where the virus can easily exist for hours and in some cases days on a range of surfaces, everything from door knobs to floors, walls, bathrooms and furniture, regardless whether it's indoor or outdoors?

They need to continuously disinfect these public areas to contain the spread of the virus. Currently most disinfection operations are carried out manually by disinfection personnel. The manual disinfection process is extremely time consuming, lacks accuracy as well as scalability for deployment multiple times a day for larger hospitals and public outdoor areas, and most importantly, puts workers at risk of exposure to the virus.

Some public authorities like those in Madrid, Daegu and Dubai have started using methods like drones to disinfect surfaces, but these are still flown manually with human pilots and have their own set of challenges which can be summarised as:

  1. Need on-site drone pilots for each drone flight - high operational cost

  2. A single drone has limited capability and coverage – low response efficiency

  3. Precise operation is difficult with manual drone control even for an excellent pilot – low accuracy / high crash risk

  4. Cannot deploy drone swarms locality or city-wide – low value for money for Smart Cities

Our Autonomous Drone Solution for Covid-19 for Smart Cities directly solves this problem in a scalable way.

The Solution We Bring to the Table

Unmanned Life is a pan-European, Autonomy-as-a-Service startup pioneer with presence in the UK, Belgium, Spain, Estonia, San Francisco and soon, Singapore. We are a team of 17+ FTE of over 9 nationalities, educated at the world’s top schools in their respective disciplines, who together have acquired more than 100 years of combined deep tech, management and business experience in some of the world’s leading companies. 

We have developed a multi-award winning, software platform to deploy large and flexible autonomous mixed swarms of different types of robots and drones working together seamlessly like autonomous robot teams for Smart Cities and Industry 4.0 use cases like autonomous emergency response, public safety, autonomous logistics, autonomous smart factories and others.

We are the world’s first AI-driven Autonomy-as-a-Service platform which can integrate with any type of drone and ground robot, with existing business information and AI systems as well as connect to a range of specialised platforms for further processing of information captured by the drones. The software enables high flexibility and scalability, deploying both outdoors and indoors, with or without GPS, and over radio, WiFi, 4G or 5G.

While our software platform has the capability to enable multiple use cases to tackle Covid-19, within the scope of this hackathon we are proposing the deployment of autonomous swarm of disinfection drones controlled by our highly interoperable Autonomy-as-a-Service software platform for Smart Cities. Swarms of autonomous drones and robots deployed remotely from mobile deployment centers (vans) near the site of the operations and controlled remotely from a central control room such as city hall by our software platform and can be used to disinfect large spaces, both indoor and outdoor, accurately across a city, in a repeatable manner, within a short time at fraction of the cost.

The functionalities of this solution includes:

1. Outdoor drones are deployed to disinfect hospital buildings, benches, car parking areas and public community spaces, while smaller indoor drones installed with portable UVC lights, can disinfect indoor surfaces of hospitals and other public buildings.

2. Depending on the disinfection requirement, each drone carries a different payload required to achieve maximum efficiency.

3. Real-time monitoring from the control centre is enabled by a video camera and streaming system installed on the drones.

4. Colour zone-mapping from the cameras builds the timeline view of disinfected areas.

5. Our software platform integrates with existing information systems providing critical insights to both the control centre and citizens via public health apps.

As the world starts to gradually ease restrictions, repeat and routine disinfection will be a critical requirement / need to prevent further waves of the virus during this highly sensitive and cautious period. The autonomy of our drone swarms addresses this requirement / need making it even more seamless, safe and time & cost effective.

Our Ability to Deliver this Solution

We are the world’s first AI-driven Autonomy-as-a-Service platform which can integrate with different types of drones and ground robots manufactured by a range of providers as well as with existing business information and AI systems. Our software platform connects as well to a range of specialised platforms for further processing of information captured by the drones. The software enables high flexibility and scalability, deploying swarms both outdoors and indoors, with or without GPS, and over radio, WiFi, 4G or 5G.

Projects already conducted using our Autonomy-as-a-Service software platform that are similar to what we propose here for autonomous disinfection, include emergency response deployment with Verizon in the US delivering emergency kits with autonomous drones across a wide rural area and the City of Vienna deploying the first autonomous search and rescue operation city wide from mobile deployment centers (fire engines and vans) and controlled remotely from a central control room at the city hall.

We have been working closely working with UK, US and Singapore governments on autonomous drone deployments for the city-wide emergency response use cases similar to this use case. The EU has selected Unmanned Life software platform as the default architecture and platform for operating commercial autonomous 5G drone services across the EU for the 5G!Drones project which is a EU funded PPP under Horizon 2020.

What We Have Done During the Weekend

With the focus on developing the autonomous drone disinfection solution to assist Smart Cities in tackling Covid-19, our team has worked over the weekend to develop the concept and build a prototype that will allow the end user to complete select, configure, and deploy the autonomous drone disinfection use case.

More specifically:

1. We have created a integrated UI to launch the solution. This allows the end user to select the drone disinfection use case among other potential use cases (surveillance, delivery, and indoor logistics);

2. Configure the devices by selecting the types and number of drones for a deployment;

3. Configure the mission by selecting a spraying area, setting the flight and spray settings;

4. Deploy the mission with a real-time insights on the spraying as well as a 3D model of how the flight would look like in real life.

The video of our solution can be found under this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7whQplu2f4

The Solution’s Impact to the Crisis

It has become pertinent to reduce human involvement in the front-line of the pandemic while continuing to implement Covid-19 specific measures like disinfection of public areas, hospitals, and other hot spots. This is the case in most cities and specially in Smart Cities. In the cases of manual disinfection as well as manual drone driven disinfection, human involvement increases as the disinfection processes are scaled, therefore now more than ever there is a need for autonomous solutions that can tackle the spread of Covid-19 that can effectively manage the issue while protecting the health and safety for front-line workers.

With their ability to be controlled and managed remotely from a control centre, Unmanned Life’s autonomous drone swarms can be deployed city-wide using existing public telecom infrastructure. They help Smart Cities today deal with the issue of efficient, recurrent and reliable large-scale disinfection of public spaces and buildings like hospitals and retail centers to contain Covid-19 knowing that such spaces are the most common and deadly hot spots, where the virus can easily exist for hours and in some cases days on a range of surfaces, everything from door knobs to floors, walls, bathrooms and furniture, regardless whether it's indoor or outdoors.

Beyond this immediate impact to alleviate the problems by this crisis, our solution also delivers the following impacts:

1. Society: With accessibility to real-time information of disinfected areas through public health apps, citizens will be able live their lives with greater confidence and freedom.

2. Economy: By ensuring constant disinfection of public spaces, hospitals, and contamination hot spots like retail chains, governments can lift strict lockdown measures quickly allowing the economy to go back to pre-Covid-19 days. This will not only reduce unemployment numbers but also enable businesses to get back on their feet.

3. Environment: Due to the autonomous, easily repeatable and accurate nature of the solution, the environmental footprint of the solution is significantly lower than other methods in use today while ensuring that the virus’ presence in the environment will be largely eliminated as much fewer people will contract the virus through surfaces in public areas and buildings.

The Necessities in order to Continue the Project

As next steps, we need to complete the development and deployment of an Autonomous Disinfection pilot in an European Smart City with the partners from the EU COVID Platform, specifically corporates and public authorities, and then, jointly go-to-market with them.

They key next steps are:

1. complete preliminary software development of the use case (May 2020)

2. develop the business case further (May 2020)

3. build a network of partners in addition to the ones we have currently – like corporate giants and public city authorities (May and June 2020)

4. deploy a funded pilot within a smart city to validate and iterate the use case and business case (June to end August 2020)

5. finalise the go-to-market strategy with the selected partners and do a commercial market launch in time to tackle the second wave of the crisis (September to October 2020)

To achieve all this we would require mentoring, matchmaking and potential access to funding services provided by the EC through the EIC COVID Platform. We would appreciate the opportunity provided by the EC to pitch our solution to relevant partners (corporates and public authorities) that would allow us to deploy a funded pilot within an European smart city validating both the solution and the business case. Being part of the EIC COVID platform and availing its Match-a-thon services, would allow us to build this network of partners and bring this roadmap to fruition.

The Value of Our Solutions After the Crisis

Unmanned Life anticipates a strong and steady demand for disinfection of public spaces and areas in a post-Covid world as governments around the world stop underestimating the importance of preventative actions such as proactive disinfection.

In addition to the autonomous drone disinfection use case, Unmanned Life has developed three further Covid-19 propositions around autonomous surveillance, autonomous test sample delivery, and autonomous indoor logistics for hospitals which can be quickly developed and deployed to assist governments and healthcare services in tackling Covid-19.

Finally the anticipated demand for autonomous drone solutions is backed by various market reports, specifically Business Insider, which predicts the global drone services market size is expected to grow from USD 4.4 billion in 2018 to USD 63.6 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 55.9% during the forecast period, and they expect this growth to occur primarily in the enterprise drone sector and Government drone programs, reiterating the growing adoption of autonomous drone solutions in the public sector. This gives us further confidence in the value and utility of our software controlled autonomous drone swarm solutions.

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