April 23 (UPI) -- A Connecticut suburb's police said this week they are testing a "pandemic drone," with a speaker allowing them to sound a verbal warning to anyone not following social distancing.
The drone technology can monitor whether people are at least 6 feet apart, the distance that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for social distancing. The CDC says the coronavirus is mainly spread through mouth or nose droplets when people are within about 6 feet of each other for a prolonged period. It's also spread by touching a surface with the virus on it, then touching mouth, nose or eyes.
Drone operators see a green circle around people when they're 6 feet apart, but if they get within 6 feet, the circle turns red. NBC Connecticut reported footage from the technology developed by Dragonfly, showing people violating social distancing guidelines at a local grocery store.
"Just another tool that gives us an opportunity to serve our community better," Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas told NBC. "These are public places. People need to understand that they need to follow the rules, but we can't be everywhere ... Instead of sending an officer out the drone can deliver an audio message through the speaker."
The drone has "sensor and computer vision systems," Dragonfly said in a statement, which can also detect "fever," "heart and respiratory rates," and "people sneezing and coughing in crowds."
The Westport Police Department said in a Facebook post that it is testing the new technology a part of a "Flatten the Curve Pilot Program."
"The goal is to provide better health monitoring support for potential at-risk groups, including seniors, as well as for gathering crowds at beaches, train stations, parks and recreation areas, and shopping centers," the post said. "It will not be used in individual private yards, nor does it employ facial recognition technology."
The town of Westport in Fairfield County has 197 COVID-19 cases, according to the NBC report.
Statewide, Connecticut has 22,469 cases and 1,544 deaths, according to the state's website. Fairfield County alone has 9,883 cases and 584 deaths.