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Coronavirus-spotting drone is being tested by police in the U.S.

Drones are being tested by police in the wider New York area as part of efforts to flatten the coronavirus curve by identifying potential violations of social distancing and detecting possible COVID-19 symptoms in one of America’s pandemic hotspots.

The drones in question are the creation of unmanned aerial vehicle-maker Draganfly. They are being used by the Westport Police Department in Connecticut, a state in which there have so far been upward of 17,550 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. It is located adjacent to New York City, which has the most confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S.

Draganfly’s coronavirus-seeking drones are equipped with special sensors and computer vision technology and can identify fever, heart and respiratory rate of individuals from a distance of 190 feet. They can also recognize if an individual coughs or sneezes in a crowd, along with measuring social distancing between people for enforcement of proactive public safety practices.

“Westport is testing the Draganfly health and public safety system to analyze and provide anonymized data on social distancing, heart rate, fever rate, and respiratory behavior, and doesn’t collect individualized data,” Cameron Chell, CEO of Draganfly, told Digital Trends. “The data tested for use by public safety professionals [is intended] to get a better picture of population health. The technology has been peer-reviewed and clinically researched to help protect potential at-risk groups, such as seniors, crowds gathering at the town and state-owned beaches, train stations, parks and recreation areas, shopping centers and other areas where people tend to gather.”

The Westport Police Department, which is carrying out the trial of the technology, has been a proactive user of drone technology in the past. It launched its own drone program in early 2016 and Chell describes the department as “one of the most progressive public safety agencies” in the country. Should all go well, however, he expects that other police departments and cities will follow suit.

“We are in talks to provide our health and public safety drone platform with other communities, organizations and companies that reside in other so-called hotspot areas around the country — mostly heavily populated cities like New York, Boston, and LA,” he said.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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