Conn. police to test ‘pandemic drone’ that monitors health activity, social distancing

The drone can detect and display heart and respiratory rates and will be used to track and stem the spread of COVID-19

By Amanda Lien

WESTPORT, Conn. — Westport police say they will be testing a “pandemic drone” that can scan the body temperatures of residents to determine if they have fevers or other health symptoms in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Canada-based aerospace company Draganfly said in a news release the drone will be equipped with a specialized sensor and computer vision systems that can display heart and respiratory rates. It can also detect people coughing in crowds and measure whether people are social distancing.

"There shouldn't be a police chief or anybody who's sitting in my seat right now with everything that's going on, not looking for a way to do things differently," Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas told ABC7. “This technology is designed to keep officers and the public safe. If you're scanning an area and you see that a problem exists, that might be an area where you might want to put more resources at.”

Koskinas said the drone won’t fly over private yards and does not employ facial recognition technology. Draganfly CEO Cameron Chell told ABC7 the drone isn't designed to identify people, but patterns.

"The system is designed to basically provide health monitoring data and be able to give us better data, but make more clear decisions," Chell said.

Westport is in a county that has more than 40% of the state’s positive COVID-19 cases. Koskinas said he hopes this technology aids the city in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

"The technology's there, but there's a lot of variables," Koskinas said. "This is where it has to prove itself before we move to the next step."


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