Rwanda uses drones to send safety Covid messages from the air
During the first phase of lockdown that started on 21 March in Rwanda, the Government of Rwanda observed that some of the densely populated neighbourhoods and high-risk zones were not respecting COVID-19 preventive measures as it was difficult to reach them by the usual awareness messages.
The Rwanda National Police intervened with Drones which were deployed to compliment radio/ TV messages, community health workers and other community leaders by bringing educative messages directly to residents by air.
The lack of compliance by residents to stay home, wash hands, respect physical distancing and wear masks was due to the low accessibility of certain areas by community awareness teams and their messages.
Rwanda has been exploring the integration of drones in different sectors since 2018 from blood delivery and larvicide spraying, facilitating distribution of medicines for chronic patients during lockdown in the Health sector, to topography in Agriculture, and taking pictures to promote tourism in the country.
Recorded footage allowed law enforcement officers and local authorities to closely monitor areas for the need of any intervention or evacuation that would normally take longer In the case of COVID-19, as drones were used to spread messages, they were also equipped with cameras. The recorded footage allowed law enforcement officers and local authorities to closely monitor areas for the need of any intervention or evacuation that would normally take longer to identify and organize.
Drones were deployed by the Rwanda National Police to different areas of Kigali City, mainly high-risk zones and densely populated areas such as Kimisagara, Nyamirambo, Kanombe… Currently, they are being used in Rusizi and Rubavu Districts where new clusters were identified and put back in lockdown.
Once the phase of curiosity passed residents started listening to messages being delivered by the drones. Police were able to reach places that sono-trucks could not reach because of difficult terrain or lack of necessary manpower.
Drones also allowed RNP to deploy Police officers directly to areas needed most as identified by a close monitoring and treatment of the imaging data captured. This strategy supported the compliance of COVID-19 prevention measures especially in remote and very densely areas where it would be difficult to halt the spread of the pandemic.
Rwanda National Police procured drones, worth $5000- $6000 each, with a capacity to broadcast sound and record high definition images.