Westport Police Said They Will Not Test ‘Pandemic Drone' That Can Sense Fevers, Coughing

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Westport police said they will not take place in a program to test a "pandemic drone” that can monitor people’s temperatures from 190 feet away and detect sneezing, coughing and heart and breathing rates amid the COVID-19 pandemic after concerns were raised.

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas said in a statement on Thursday that “after careful consideration and in collaboration with First Selectman Jim Marpe, the Westport Police Department has chosen not to participate in the Draganfly drone ‘“Flatten the Curve Pilot Program’” after the announcement of it resulted in expressions of public concern and reservation. 

On Wednesday, David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, issued a statement about the program.

“The COVID-19 virus is a grave public health risk, so we shouldn’t write off tools that might help mitigate the problem. But we also must recognize that technology is no magic pill to stemming the pandemic. Towns and the state should be wary of self-interested, privacy-invading companies using COVID-19 as a chance to market their products and create future business opportunities,” he said.

Koskinas said he see the greater potential of the technology but will always be responsive and respectful of the concerns of residents.

“It is a fact that the COVID-19 virus continues to spread through the global community, and therefore poses a serious and credible threat to us all now and in the future. In our steadfast commitment to public service, we remain honored to have been given an opportunity to assist in a pilot program which could someday prove to be a valuable lifesaving tool. We thank Draganfly for offering the pilot program to Westport and sincerely hope to be included in future innovations once we are convinced the program is appropriate for Westport,” Koskinas said in a statement.

The ACLU said the fever detection might not be accurate and might not be helpful in stopping the spread of COVID-19 because some people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic and not everyone with a fever or cough has COVID-19.

“We are not hearing a cry for new surveillance technologies. The urgent need at the moment, according to public health experts, is to ramp up testing capability, suppress transmission through social distancing measures, and support our hospitals as they face an influx of patients,” McGuire said.

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