Assessing the potential of unmanned aerial vehicle spraying of aqueous ozone as an outdoor disinfectant for SARS-CoV-2

Environ Res. 2021 May;196:110944. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.110944. Epub 2021 Feb 26.


The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed gaps in our understanding of safe, effective and efficient means of disinfecting high use public spaces. Whilst this creates an opportunity for development and application of innovative approaches such as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) based disinfection, unregulated outdoor disinfection using chlorine has led to environmental and public health risks. This study has quantified the efficiency, safety and efficacy of UAV-based spraying of aqueous ozone. Optimised UAV flight characteristics of 4.7 km/h at 1.7 m elevation spraying 2.4 L/min were able to provide >97% and >92% coverage of a 1 m and 2 m wide swath respectively. During spraying operations using 1 mg/L aqueous ozone, atmospheric concentrations of ozone remained within background levels (<0.04 ppm). Highly efficient inactivation of two different isolates of SARS-CoV-2 virus was achieved at aqueous ozone concentrations of 0.75 mg/L after an incubation period of only 5 min, with 0.375 mg/L achieving 82-91.5% inactivation in this time. Exposure of diamondback moth larvae and parasitic wasps to 1 mg/L aqueous ozone did not significantly affect their survivorship. These results indicate for the first time that aqueous ozone may provide the required balance between human and environmental safety and viral inactivation efficacy for targeted application in high risk outdoor settings.

Keywords: COVID-19; Disinfection; Environmental impacts; Outdoor spraying; UAV.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Disinfectants*
  • Disinfection
  • Humans
  • Ozone*
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Disinfectants
  • Ozone