Going ‘big brother’: Police department tests ‘pandemic drone’ which can detect coughing, fevers


WESTPORT, CT.- We cannot believe that the ACLU doesn’t have a problem with this.

In only the past 24-hours, two news items from the State of Connecticut should give pause to liberty-loving Americans. How far are Americans willing to go as far as sacrificing our freedom and right to privacy in order to achieve “safety?”

A police department in Connecticut is now testing a “pandemic drone” and the governor wants Connecticut residents to download an app in order to reopen businesses, both in the interests of “tracking the coronavirus.”

According to NBC-30 in Hartford, police in Westport, Connecticut are going to be testing a so-called “pandemic drone,” which will be able to “monitor people’s temperatures from 190 feet away and detect sneezing, coughing and heart and breathing rates.”

The police are working with a company called Draganfly, a drone company in a joint effort to test technology to “help combat the spread of the coronavirus.”

In a news release, Draganfly said the drone is equipped with specialized sensor and computer vision systems, with the ability to display fever/temperature, heart and respiratory rates, as well as the ability to detect people sneezing and coughing in crowds, wherever groups of people may work or congregate.

Connecticut currently has just short of 20,000 cases of COVID-19, with nearly half of those cases being in Fairfield County, where Westport is located.

“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 First Selectman Jim Marpe in a statement.

“One way to 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.”

Not too sure there, Mr. First Selectman. This looks like something that could easily be misused, maybe not in Westport but certainly someone may use this technology for nefarious purposes.

The police department said that the goal is to provide better monitoring for groups who are more at-risk, including senior citizens. It would also be used to monitor crowds at locations such as beaches, train stations, parks and recreation areas, as well as at shopping centers.

According to a report on ABC-7 in New York, the drone could also be used to measure whether people are social distancing. As we said, nefarious purposes.

“There shouldn’t be a police chief of anybody who’s sitting in my seat right now with everything that’s going on, not looking for a way to do things differently,” said police chief Foti Koskinas.

“If you’re scanning an area and you see that a problem exists, that might be an area where you might want to put more resources at,” Koskinas said.

In a news release, police said that the drone software “uses biometric readings to understand population patterns and allows quicker reaction time to ongoing events or potential health threats.”

The program is called the “Flatten the Curve Pilot Program.” It sounds in some ways more like “Flatten the 4th Amendment Program.”

Police noted that the drones will not be used in individual private yards, nor does it use facial recognition technology.

“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,” said Koskinas in a news release.

Privacy is a concern for the New York Civil Liberties Union, which released a statement saying, in part that any use of drones should be “scientifically justified, communicated transparently to the public, limited in their scope and duration, and should always require informed consent.”

Koskinas noted that “I’m absolutely very sensitive to privacy issues.”

 The CEO of the company said that the technology is not designed to identify people, but rather patterns.

“The system is designed to basically provide health monitoring data and be able to give us better data, but make more clear decisions,” said Cameron Chell, CEO of Draganfly.

“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,” Chell said.

“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.”

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Meanwhile, leftist Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont wants residents of the state to download a new app to their phones to “anonymously provide scientists with critical health information needed to understand the spread of the new coronavirus.”

According to The Patch, Lamont is pushing for residents to add the app, called the “How We Feel” app in order to track user’s symptoms, with the information gathered then able to reveal hotspots and track the progression of COVID-19.

The app was developed by health experts from several institutions, including Harvard, MIT and others. A release says that it was created “in response to the need for health officials and doctors to obtain more information on COVID-19 in the face of widespread testing shortages.”

The app does not require logging in, nor does it require sharing personal details such as name or email address. However, since phones have the ability to track user info via GPS technology, it is uncertain if the information would truly be anonymous.

Lamont said that people in the state could assist in research by self-reporting daily symptoms about how they are feeling, whereby the data would be shared with scientists in real time.

The information would be “securely” shared with the medical institutions in order to provide health professionals and scientists the ability to spot emerging outbreaks, identify new at-risk populations and measure the efficiency of locking people down through social distancing.

Lamont’s office said that the ability to get the data to the medical community quickly can enable them to make faster decisions to help slow or contain the coronavirus.

They said that when they are able to get a better handle on who is sick, the level of their illness and their location that the deployment of additional resources might be achievable.

“We’re all looking for something we can to do stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this app provides an opportunity for everyone—regardless of whether you are currently sick or if you are in healthy condition—to share how you’re feeling to leading health professionals, so they can track the spread of this virus and quickly determine where a new outbreak may be occurring,” Lamont said.

“Likewise, as people report healthier symptoms, the data could reveal which health measures are having the fastest impact and apply those learnings in other areas. It’s quick and easy to use, and completely anonymous. By encouraging everyone to use How We Feel, we all benefit.”

It looks like the ability to re-open the state will be based on the willingness of Connecticut residents to participate. It is being heavily pushed by the “Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group.”

Dr. Albert Ko of the Yale School of Medicine, co-chair of the group said, “We need to provide all residents of Connecticut with the best technology to identify whether they are feeling ill and need to get tested for COVID-19.

We can all be assured that by partnering with most trusted and high-caliber doctors and scientists who created How We Feel, we can provide the best care and the highest standards of data privacy.”

Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, also co-chair of the advisory group said:

“As our task force works on our plan for fighting the virus and getting the state back to work, How We Feel will be a critical tool for us to get a better understanding of how the whole population is feeling, both healthy and sick.

This will enable us to more quickly make the important decisions about opening the economy.”

 Of course, the issue with Lamont’s advisory group is that it does not appear to include any small business interests on the panel.

Besides the two mentioned, it includes another doctor, Dr. Scott Gottlieb who is the former FDA commissioner; another doctor, Ezekiel Emanuel who helped create Obamacare; Lamont’s chief of staff Paul Mounds, a Democrat hack; Charles Lee, director of Jackson Labs Genomic Medicine division; and David Scheer, who is connected to Lamont’s wife, a venture capitalist; Oni Chukwu, chairman of a cloud-based software company, Dr. Harlan Krumholz of the Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Mehmood Khan, former chief scientific officer of PepsiCo and a former faculty member at the May Clinic, and someone named Alex Kamala.

Lots of medical people, nobody (except Nooyi) who knows anything about business.

If anyone thinks business will be back to “normal” anytime soon in Connecticut, don’t hold your breath.

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