'Pandemic drone' test flights are monitoring social distancing

The flights taking place in a COVID-19 hotspot in Connecticut use sensors to detect the virus' symptoms from afar.

Drones are being used to help monitor social distancing efforts and detect COVID-19 symptoms from afar.
Teeraphon Phooma/EyeEm/Getty

A series of "pandemic drones" is taking part in a test flight in a COVID-19 hotspot in Connecticut with the goal of monitoring social distancing efforts and detecting the virus' symptoms. 

Drone manufacturer Draganfly is working with the police department in Westport, Connecticut, to test the drones. Located in Fairfield County -- adjacent to New York City -- Westport was the first town in the state to report several coronavirus infections, according to a Wednesday press release from Draganfly.

The drones include specialized sensor and computer vision systems that can display a person's temperature, heart and respiratory rates, as well as detect people sneezing or coughing in a crowd, the release said. The technology can accurately detect infectious conditions from 190 feet away, as well as measure social distancing efforts, according to Draganfly. 

The drones don't use facial recognition technology, and won't be used at people's private residences, according to a release from the Westport Police Department. Rather, they're used to identify patterns within the population, allowing officials to better track the spread and make decisions about public places while keeping first responders safe, the department said.

The Westport Police Department has had a drone program since 2016. 

"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," Westport Chief of Police Foti Koskinas said in the Draganfly release. "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."

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