The Westport, Conn. Police Department announced on Tuesday it was testing new drone technology to combat the spread of the coronavirus. On Thursday, the department announced it was scrapping the program.
In conjunction with Draganfly, a manufacturer of commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Westport had begun testing the drones as part of a “Flatten the Curve Pilot Program.” Westport lies in Fairfield County, considered the coronavirus epicenter in the state.
According to Police Chief Foti Koskinas, “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.”
According to Draganfly, the pandemic drone is equipped with a specialized sensor and computer vision systems that can display fever/temperature, heart and respiratory rates, as well as detect people sneezing and coughing in crowds, and wherever groups of people may work or congregate. It does not employ facial recognition technology.
The technology can accurately detect infectious conditions from 190 feet as well as measure social distancing for proactive public safety practices, the company said in a statement.
On Wednesday, a protest was staged outside the Westport Police Department. The Connecticut ACLU issued a statement:
Any new surveillance measure that isn’t being advocated for by public health professionals and restricted solely for public health use should be promptly rejected, and we are naturally skeptical of towns announcing these kinds of partnerships without information about who is operating the drones, what data they will collect, or how or if that data will be stored, shared, or sold.
On Thursday the Westport PD released a statement that acknowledged the protests and said it has chosen not to participate in the Draganfly drone “Flatten the Curve Pilot Program.”