Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
A Connecticut town's police department will be the first to try out “pandemic drone” technology to check for symptoms of the novel coronavirus, such as high fever, and monitor social distancing amongst the public, officials recently announced.
Draganfly Inc., the Canada-based drone company behind the project, announced Tuesday “the first ever series of U.S. ‘pandemic drone’ test flights” in Westport, a town in Fairfield County, which boasts the highest number of cases of any county in the state.
“The Westport Police Department along with first responders around the world are looking for effective ways to ease the spread of COVID-19 and keep their communities safe,” said Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas. “This technology not only enhances the safety of our officers and the public, but the concept of using drones remains a go-to technology for reaching the most remote areas with little to no manpower needed. It also helps our officers acquire decision quality data they need to make the best choices in any given situation.”
Draganfly’s fleet of “pandemic drones” will use biometric readings to “detect symptoms such as sneezing and coughing, high blood pressure and rapid heartbeats in order to make a diagnosis,” according to a press release by the company. The software does not include facial recognition technology, the company said.
The drone software uses special sensors and “computer vision systems” that can show a person’s heart and respiratory rates and body temperatures – and can do so from as far as 190 feet away. It can spot people sneezing or coughing and even detect when members of the public are not properly social distancing, the company said.
The software, according to the company, “is used to understand patterns within a population to allow users to react quicker to ongoing events or new potential health threat.”
The drone test is part of the “Flatten the Curve Pilot Program” and is being carried out in collaboration with the University of South Australia and health care data company Vital Intelligence Inc.
Fairfield County has reported at least 8,472 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 544 deaths, compared to New Haven County, which was the second-highest with 5,493 cases and 402 deaths.
Westport – “the first town to report the most cases of infections,” according to the company – has reported at least 198 COVID-19 cases and five deaths as of Tuesday, according to data released by the state. And Connecticut as a whole has been hit with at least 20,360 cases, data shows.
“One of the major problems for cities and towns like Westport in managing and responding to a pandemic like the COVID-19 virus, is finding out who could be infected and how widespread the disease has spread,” said Westport First Selectman, Jim Marpe, in a statement released by the company. “One way to do this is to look for underlying symptoms. By teaming up with Draganfly and the UniSA team… we are able to remotely look at valuable lifesaving data and better manage current and future health emergencies.”