US law enforcement agencies are trialling drones which follow the movements of suspected COVID-19 carriers as part of efforts to combat the disease and flatten the curve.
The drones will be used to identify potential violations of social distancing and to detect possible COVID-19 symptoms in some of America’s pandemic hotspots, monitoring a person’s temperature and heart rate from a distance of 190 feet.
So far, the drones have been tested by police forces in two hotspots of the US outbreak, New York and Connecticut, as part of the state force’s ‘Flatten the Curve Pilot Programme‘.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) company Draganfly is producing the drone, which is equipped with a sensor and computer vision systems that can display fever/temperature, heart and respiratory rates, as well as show people sneezing and coughing in crowds, and wherever groups of people may work or congregate.
Cameron Chell, CEO of Draganfly, commented: “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.
“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 analyse data in a way that has been peer-reviewed and clinically researched to save lives.”
The drones are designed to allow police forces to detect and prevent social contact, whilst keeping first responders and officers safe by reducing contact with the public.
“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 a statement.
“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,” Koskinas added.
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Drones have also been used in the UK to ensure social distancing rules were adhered to during the Easter weekend, when concern was raised as to whether people would remain indoors after forecasts of good weather.
A drone that could “talk” to members of the public, informing them to return to their homes were, used by police forces across the UK.
In a pre-recorded message, the drone would broadcast: “Attention, this is a police message. You are gathering in breach of government guidelines to stay at home in response to the coronavirus. You are putting lives at risk. Please disperse immediately and return home.”
The tactics were previously used in China, Spain and Italy to deliver messages telling people they are in breach of government guidelines, showing a potential for more use of drone technology to fight the virus in the future.