Swarms of unmanned, AI-controlled autonomous drones packed with sensors will help battle the corona-virus and respond to other crises, according to an innovator working in the sector.

Kumardev Chatterjee is founder and CEO of startup Unmanned Life, which deploys artificial intelligence to control teams of aerial and ground-based robots and enable them to work collaboratively.

In the UK, Unmanned Life has been working on a secret project to aid in the government’s corona-virus response. “I cannot talk in detail about it, as it’s not yet public, but very soon we’ll be doing something to help the response to COVID-19, using autonomous drones as a team.

“We already have a programme where we are using autonomous drones for the disinfection of outdoor and indoor spaces.

“Drones can be controlled as a team by human beings, but this can also be done through AI – a very powerful concept and we are seeing a lot of traction around that.”

Chatterjee hinted that the project will use drones that fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). Unmanned Life is working with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on how to do this safely, integrated with the UK’s air traffic management system, he claimed.

The startup has form in this area, Chatterjee explained.

“For example, we are in the city of Vienna, where our drones will be doing emergency response for fire, search, and rescue.

“If there’s an alert from somebody in trouble or distress, the drones will fly out and locate that person, while another drone would probably drop something like first aid or PPE, until first responders get there.

“That’s an example of what our software can do with a range of different drones, no matter what the hardware is.”

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