Silicon Valley Combating COVID-19
Silicon Valley is highly regarded as a center of entrepreneurship that has solved many of the world’s problems. Recently, these innovators have shifted their attention to COVID-19 through a variety of strategies like creating safer and more efficient ways to treat patients, shortening the supply chain of personal protective equipment and donating money to help mitigate the virus’ effects. The sector boasts produces $275 billion in profit every year, deeming it one of the wealthiest regions on Earth and underscoring its immense financial power. Silicon Valley is mobilizing its resources to create innovations and provide financial firepower to help eliminate the virus globally. Here are three ways Silicon Valley is combating COVID-19.


Robot production, an already increasingly popular industry worldwide, is playing a significant role in COVID-19 prevention. Robots are capable of performing a myriad of tasks that could help mitigate the virus. For example, machines programmed with ultraviolet disinfection techniques are being used to clean medical areas in a way that is faster and more effective than human workers. Knightscope, a Silicon Valley company that produces security robots, recently updated its fleet to spread COVID-19 information through speaker systems.

Robots have proven especially beneficial in many developing countries for disinfection and testing purposes, highlighting how technology  can help the impoverished. In Rwanda, for instance, robots record temperatures and deliver supplies to medical facilities across the capital city of Kigali. Similarly, Egypt is using remote-controlled robots to administer COVID-19 tests to minimize the risk of virus transmission during testing. With technological innovations like these from Silicon Valley, there is hope for reducing the spread of COVID-19 in countries across the world.

3D Printing

Silicon Valley is home to some of the world’s largest 3D printing companies like HP and Formlabs and is widely regarded as the leader of innovation in the field. Now, 3D printers are being used to quickly and affordably generate personal protective equipment such as masks and face shields for health care professionals. 3D printers are especially efficient in bringing needed equipment directly to medical facilities by bypassing government bureaucracy. This is an especially valuable asset for developing nations, as critical supplies are often not available due to government corruption or inadequacy. 3D printing technologies are currently being made more affordable so more developing countries can invest and benefit from their advantages. 3D printing is another way how Silicon Valley is addressing COVID-19 t internationally.


Many Silicon Valley billionaires have contributed some of the biggest donations for COVID-19 mitigation efforts. These philanthropic actions have shown how Silicon Valley is addressing COVID-19 beyond its technological endeavors. The CEO of tech giant Twitter, for example, has pledged over $1 billion in stock of his online payment company Square to global COVID-19 relief. This donation represents 28% of his wealth, inspiring other tech moguls to make similarly substantial donations. Renowned Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has allocated at least $350 million to COVID-19 relief through Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. However, these generous moves by Silicon Valley elite are not enough: less than 11% of all billionaires have provided financial assistance for COVID-19 relief. With its notorious wealth, Silicon Valley has the power to great;y help solve the world’s problems through philanthropy.

Silicon Valley is combating COVID-19 through its world-renowned innovation and financial capabilities. While robots and 3D printing are especially helpful in supporting the world’s poor in and the fight against COVID_19, these innovations cannot end with the pandemic. To truly eradicate global poverty, Silicon Valley must take a continued vested interest in the world’s poor.

– Garrett O’Brien
Photo: Flickr

Drone strikes and the moral turbidity they incite have been hot international topics this year. Advancements in drone technology are happening more quickly than our understanding of their potential. The U.S. war on terrorism has become dominated by precision drone strikes, and other countries like Iran and China are quickly developing their own drones to counter. Stealth reconnaissance, missile guidance, and bomb delivery are just some of the ways Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are being used in combat to improve military power. Yet, the expanding technology can be used for more than just warfare, and, in the future, UAVs could potentially save more lives than they destroy.

Drones have a couple of advantages over humans in the exploration of dangerous areas in that they are both expendable and as resilient as you choose to make them. While many people are known for having thick skin, metal and high-density plastics are tougher. In Costa Rica, the Dragon Eye UAV successfully travelled into the plume of an active volcano. Obviously, going inside a volcano would be incredibly dangerous, but just getting close has proven difficult for scientists due to the toxic sulfuric ash, high temperatures, and ash and smoke clouds that can stretch for miles. Understanding more about how they erupt will lead an increased ability to predict eruptions and allow for earlier, more accurate warnings.

Smoke from forest and brush fires is just as harmful to human lungs and seriously obstructs vision. In 2012, just 13 people died from wildfires in the U.S., but over 2,000 homes were destroyed. Many of those who die each year are the firefighters who attempt to control these fires. Fireflight Unmanned Aircraft Systems has developed a lightweight UAV to assist firefighters that uses infrared cameras to locate people in danger and track the path of fires.

Natural disasters present other dangers to rescue teams than fire and smoke. Floods, typhoons, and earthquakes can level structures and make roadways impassable. UAVs are perfect for rescue missions into inhospitable areas like these. After being frustrated at the amount of time it took to locate and help survivors of Japan’s 2011 tsunami, Shane Coughlan developed OpenRelief to create affordable drones that could map disaster areas in real-time and better facilitate relief efforts. The drones will cost no more than $1,000 to make commercially and offer upgradeable sensor systems to customize for the needs of the disaster.

Perhaps the most innovative and amazing use of robots for disaster relief comes from a group led by Vijay Kumar at Penn State University. A team there has developed automated micro-UAV’s that can work in tandem to perform herculean tasks. Weighing less than ten ounces and with a diameter of 50 centimeters, these fully automated robots can map areas without GPS, lift hundreds of pounds in teams, maneuver through obstacles without guidance, and even construct basic structures, to name only a few of their capabilities. Getting help to those in disaster areas is becoming faster and easier as UAV design moves away from the battlefield.

– Tyson Watkins
Sources: TG Daily, USA Today, Linux Magazine, TED, Popular Mechanics, International Symposium on Robotics Research 2011, FireFlight Unmanned Aircraft Services