In order to address logistical issues during COVID-19 testing, Texas A&M University School of Public Health researchers investigated the use of drones to deliver COVID-19 diagnostics kits directly to the homes of suspected patients. Home test kits have proven to be effective in obtaining an accurate diagnosis of COVID-19 without the need to step outside and risk further infection transmission. Obtaining these test kits, however, can be difficult for many people who suspect they have the virus.
To address this, researchers devised a new method in which drones could be used to efficiently deliver COVID-19 test kits to individuals. The team proposed a method to schedule the delivery of the kits using drones dispatched from trucks in the study, which was published in the Journal of Intelligent & Robotic Systems.
Murray Cote, an associate professor at Texas A&M University School of Public Health and one of the study’s authors, divided the problem into truck and drone components. They first attempted to reduce the truck’s travel distance by optimising the scheduling time, and then worked to reduce the drone’s delivery time.
The new method works in the first stage by identifying feasible routes for trucks and drones. Then, in the second stage, a heuristic algorithm is used to explore various combinations of routes in order to improve the suggested initial solution.
During the evaluation of their new method, the team was successful in spotting an efficient routing schedule after approximately one hour of computing time. They also demonstrated the effectiveness of their method by comparing the rate of virus transmission to face-to-face testing and showing the total time required for the deliveries, the number of people involved in the process, and the rate of virus transmission.
It was discovered that the proposed method could reduce virus transmission during testing by a factor of 7.5. The researchers believe that their method can be used to efficiently deliver CVOID-19 diagnostic kits in both rural and urban areas.