Police in Westport, Connecticut, are working with Canadian drone company Draganfly on test flights for a ‘pandemic drone’
Police in Westport, Connecticut, are testing a ‘pandemic drone’ which can monitor and detect people with infectious respiratory conditions in public areas amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The drone is said to monitor people’s temperatures from 190 feet away and has the ability to detect sneezing, coughing and heart and breathing rates using sensors and computer vision.
Police are working with Canadian drone company Draganfly, who first revealed in late March that they were working with the University of South Australia (UniSA) to develop the pandemic drone.
They are using the technology as part of a ‘Flatten the Curve Pilot Program’, which hopes to provide better health monitoring support for potential at-risk groups.
It marks the first in a series of test flights near New York City area COVID-19 hotspots to identify social distancing and detect symptoms presented by the virus.
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The ‘pandemic drone’ it said to have the ability to monitor and detect people with infectious respiratory conditions in public areas from 190 feet away amid the coronavirus pandemic
Draganfly says the drone and its monitors and sensors will not identify individuals
It will not be used in individual private yards and does not use facial recognition, individualized data or identify people, Draganfly insists.
The company initially expected the equipment to be ready in six months time but Westport police are already testing it out, a news release said Tuesday.
The system could be used to identify people sneezing and coughing in crowds, offices, airports, cruise ships, aged care homes and other places where groups of people may work or congregate.
Researchers involved say the drone demonstrated that heart rate and breathing rate can be measured with high accuracy within 16 to 32 feet of people, using drones and at distances of up to 190 feet with fixed cameras.
And it uses special algorithms to spot someone sneezing and coughing.
The UniSA team led by Defence Chair of Sensor Systems Professor Javaan Chahl believes the UAV could be a viable screening tool for the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘It might not detect all cases, but it could be a reliable tool to detect the presence of the disease in a place or in a group of people.’
Officials in Westport believe the new technology could be the answer to combating the spread of coronavirus and tracking those with symptoms.
Researchers involved say the drone demonstrated that heart rate and breathing rate can be measured with high accuracy within 16 to 32 feet of people using drones with fixed cameras
The company says it will not be used to monitor private yards, only public areas
‘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,’ Westport First Selectman, Jim Marpe said in a statement, according to NBC Connecticut.
‘One way to do this is to look for underlying symptoms. By teaming up with Draganfly and the UniSA team led by Defense Chair of Sensor Systems Professor Javaan Chahl, we are able to remotely look at valuable lifesaving data and better manage current and future health emergencies.’
Fairfield County, Connecticut is considered the epicenter in the state for the spread of the Coronavirus and Westport was the first town to report the most cases of infections.
To date, there are more than 19,815 confirmed cases in Connecticut.
Fairfield County is adjacent to New York City, which has the most confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S.
It can detect sneezing, coughing and heart/breathing rates using sensors and computer vision
The program is hoped to help officials in monitoring and detecting people with infectious respiratory conditions in public areas in Westport, where it is being tested
‘The Westport Police Department is one of the most progressive public safety agencies in the nation and real pioneers when it comes to adopting and integrating new technology to enhance the safety of their citizens and first responders,’ said Cameron Chell, CEO of Draganfly.
‘This coronavirus pandemic has opened up a new frontier for advanced drones. In conjunction with our partners, including the town of Westport, together we are the first in the U.S. to implement this state-of-the-art technology to analyze data in a way that has been peer reviewed and clinically researched to save lives.’
Police claim it will also allow for quicker reaction time to potential health threats as it will give a greater understanding of population patterns.
‘Using drones remains a go-to technology for reaching remote areas with little to no manpower required. Because of this technology, our officers will have the information and quality data they need to make the best decision in any given situation,’ Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas said in the news release.
Chell says his company will use its sensor, software and engineering expertise to work with UniSA to integrate and deploy for government, medical and commercial customers.
‘We are honored to work on such an important project given the current pandemic facing the world with Covid-19. Health and respiratory monitoring will be vital not only for detection but also to understand health trends,’ Chell said.
Drones have become very helpful during the pandemic, as many countries are using the technology to monitor people who defy lockdown or quarantine advice.
The Chula Vista Police Department in San Diego, California has invested in two drones that cost $11,000 each and plan to fit the devices with speakers and night vision cameras after last week Governor Gavin Newsom ordered residents to stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Drones have become very helpful during the pandemic. China used a drone to spray disinfected on streets and villages. Officials had hoped that the disinfectant will prevent the killer virus from spreading further although it is not yet known how effective this will be