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UJ’s blimp, Rudderless – a novel solution to ensure compliance with social distancing measures

​A small group of international scientists are turning to the sky as one way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

According to Professor Qingguo Wang of the Institute of Intelligent Systems (IIS) at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), a ‘pandemic drone’ and other aviation technology could ensure that citizens comply with prevention measures.


“UJ and researchers at Beihang University in Beijing joined forces to find an alternative solution to ensure compliance with social distancing measures that were implemented by most countries worldwide. The result, an unmanned aerial vehicle, named Rudderless,” said Prof Wang.

Rudderless, is a new generation of drones with guaranteed safety and superior performance. “The interdisciplinary team has reinvented the blimp by designing technology that could be used to monitoring social distancing, spot if people are wearing masks and even track whether they have a fever,” explains Prof Wang.

Measuring approximately 4.5 meters long, 1.2 meters wide and 2 meters high with a weight of about 8kg, the airship’s working time is about 4 hours.

Prof Wang concludes: “We envision that the use of thermal and infrared cameras; real-time images and the control of distance between people; and the direct reporting to relevant parties via wireless communication will transform the aviation sector. We trust that the rollout of the autonomous airship technologies will be instrumental during the pandemic.”

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