Australian researchers have developed a drone capable of measuring a person's breathing and heart rate from 60 meters away.
The team from the University of South Australia (UniSA), led by sensor systems and engineering expert Javaan Chahl, created the drones in conjunction with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to be deployed during humanitarian crises.
Chahl said that the drone is able to measure a subject's heart beat by using a camera to sense the top a person's head pulsing by approximately one millimeter with each beat.
"Basically in a disaster, unfortunately you have to prioritise who's living, who's dead and perhaps who's dying, and this might allow a drone to map a scene and establish the general condition of people," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Thursday.
Despite the good intentions of the device, Chahl acknowledged that it could be used for darker uses- including spying or weaponization.
"If we can start doing these things, so can somebody who has a bad agenda," Chahl said.
"The same software could do facial recognition, measure their heart rate after climbing up some stairs in the subway, and you could do that for 100,000 people a day.
"Somebody could take their data and do something with it, you could try to sell them something, you could deny them insurance, you could tell their employer."
Developing drones for humanitarian purposes has become a major focus of robotics experts with the Australian Red Cross in 2017 partnering with technology experts to provide aid in the wake of cyclones in Queensland and New South Wales.
WeRobotics, the firm that partnered with the Red Cross, is currently working on training governments and non-government organizations (NGOs) to use robotics in crises.