Police in Westport test drones to detect COVID-19 in crowds

Police in Westport, Connecticut, are testing drones that will be used to detect coughing and fever in crowds. (Draganfly)

Westport, Connecticut, police are testing drone flights to detect the spread of COVID-19 among crowds at shopping centers and other locations. There are nearly 18,000 virus cases in the state and Westport is near a pandemic epicenter in New York City.

Technology from drone developer Draganfly, the University of South Australia and healthcare deep learning company Vital Intelligence will be deployed to detect infectious conditions such as coughing from a distance of 190 feet, according to the companies.

The drones in actual use will be equipped with specialized sensor and computer vision systems that display fever and temperature and respiratory rates, as well as coughing in crowds.  Westport will use the drone to help protect at-risk groups such as seniors gathered at state-owned beaches, train stations, parks, shopping centers and other places where people gather.

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It will be the first time the technology has been deployed in the U.S. to analyze data for virus detection, Draganfly said.

Westport police have previously used drones to support dive teams searching submerged locations and for search and rescue and public works projects. Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas said the city was looking for ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  Using drones will enhance the safety of officers and the public and will allow the city to reach remote areas, he said.

Draganfly’s pandemic drone software uses biometric readings such as temperature in the analysis process but does not employ facial recognition technology, the company said. 

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