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Draganfly Inc., an award-winning, industry-leading manufacturer within the commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (“UAV”), Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (“RPAS”), and unmanned vehicle sector, today announced the first-ever series of U.S. ‘pandemic drone’ test flights in Westport, Connecticut, considered a COVID-19 ‘hotspot,’ to identify social distancing and detect symptoms presented by the virus, in an effort to keep the community safe.
Fairfield County, Connecticut is considered the epicenter in the State for the spread of the Coronavirus and Westport was the first town to report the most cases of infections. To date, there are more than 17,550 confirmed cases in Connecticut. Fairfield County is adjacent to New York City, which has the most confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S.—more than 138,500—surpassing the number of confirmed cases reported in China's Hubei province, where the outbreak originated.
Draganfly’s new pandemic drone technology is being tested by the Westport Police Department as a new “Flatten the Curve Pilot Program” and is made possible by the collaboration and integration of technologies developed by Draganfly, Vital Intelligence Inc., a healthcare data services and deep learning company, and the University of South Australia (UniSA). Westport is deploying the technology and data tools to enhance town services, advance public safety, promote the efficient use of taxpayer dollars, engage residents, and encourage growth in the local economy.
The pandemic drone will be 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. The technology can accurately detect infectious conditions from a distance of 190 feet as well as measure social distancing for proactive public safety practices.
“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,” said Cameron Chell, CEO of Draganfly. “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 analyze data in a way that has been peer reviewed and clinically researched to save lives.”
Westport intends to use the drone technology 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.
“One of the major problems for cities and towns like Westport in managing and responding to a pandemic like the COVID-19 virus, is finding out who could be infected and how widespread the disease has spread,” said Westport First Selectman, Jim Marpe. “One way to do this is to look for underlying symptoms. By teaming up with Draganfly and the UniSA team led by Defence Chair of Sensor Systems Professor Javaan Chahl, we are able to remotely look at valuable lifesaving data and better manage current and future health emergencies.”
The Westport Police Department launched its drone program in early 2016 under the guidance of the Department’s Federal Aviation Administration-certified drone pilot, Captain Ryan Paulsson. Originally used to support its dive team operations to better assist in locating submerged objects or victims, Westport Police Department quickly realized the program’s potential for other missions and soon expanded its use for accident investigation, documentation of scenes, search and rescue, public works projects, and pre-event planning.
“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,” said Westport Chief of Police, Foti Koskinas. “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.”
Captain Paulsson said, “We are modeling the future of drone integration in public safety by utilizing Draganfly’s technology as first responders. We are honored to be the first law enforcement deployments in the country of this technology that will shape the future of public safety drone integration in the U.S.”
Draganfly‘s pandemic drone software uses biometric readings in its analysis process and does not employ facial recognition technology. Rather, the software is used to understand patterns within a population to allow users to react quicker to ongoing events or new potential health threats. Its deep learning algorithms can quickly detect symptoms such as sneezing and coughing, high blood pressure and rapid heartbeats in order to make a diagnosis of disease.
The COVID-19 global pandemic is unparalleled and has caused many countries to impose travel bans, self-imposed quarantine periods and social distancing, causing disruption to business globally and resulting in economic slowdowns. Early detection is the best protection. Advanced technology and tools like the Draganfly pandemic drone which was deployed with speed in the interest of public safety without the acceptance of compensation for the initial test exists to remotely detect illness and help government and healthcare professionals better protect human life before, during and after a crisis.