Drones May Help Police In COVID Crisis

Can drones help Westport flatten the coronavirus curve? Westport Police want to find out.

Chief Foti Koskinas and Captain Ryan Paulsson, head of the department’s drone program, are testing new technology, through a partnership with drone company Draganfly.

It could be used in areas where large, unsafe gatherings might occur, such as Compo Beach and Longshore. If crowds are gathered, it could make an announcement asking people to practice physical distancing, or leave.

It does not use facial recognition technology, and would not be used over private property.

Draganfly says that its software can also scan body temperature, heart and respiration rates, coughs and blood pressure. The Canadian company says the drone can detect infectious conditions from 190 feet.

Koskinas notes that such data — if it is reliable — would probably be used by health officials, not the police.

A Draganfly drone

The department has been using drones for several years already. Purposes include missing persons, motor vehicle accidents, and assisting the Fire Department.

87 responses to “Drones May Help Police In COVID Crisis

  1. They are Chinese spy dronrs.
    All recorded information, gets sent to the cloud, where then the Chinese view it all!
    Stay out of Westport, less you want to be on Chinese Candid Camera!

  2. Brian Taylor

    Big Brother is watching.

  3. Lynn Goldberg

    Anther Draganfly?

    >

  4. Bob Stalling

    And when Corona is gone, the drones will be gone, correct?
    (That was a joke)

    • No. When Covid 19 is over the drones will be repurposed to fly over the parking lots of fast food joints to alert people that making poor food choices contributes to the obesity epidemic. I can hear them now, “Mr. Walsh, put down that milkshake! You have gained .75 Lbs over the course of this weekend and your triglycerides are elevated.”

      Is this really how we want to live?

  5. Jordan Broadbent

    Fear and anxiety are always helpful to introduce new methods, wherein a ‘normal’ situation everybody would protest against, but people are sheep. Once a situation becomes habitus, it will be hard to change it, because new arguments will come why it shouldn’t be changed.
    When it can measure body temperature, heart rate, respiration rates, and how often you cough, you can be assured it will or already is capable of face recognition, or it will be integrated via a software update.

  6. I’m sure this was well intentioned and I have the very highest respect for our police force. However, this pilot program to stalk Westport residents raises a number of serious questions and makes me uncomfortable. While drones have proven to be valuable in certain public safety applications, we all know that they are also used by some of the most repressive regimes on the planet to monitor and control their subjects. Westport has, in my view, done a wonderful job of coming together in this time of crisis in order to help one another. The idea of conducting surveillance seems out of step with who we are. I find it troubling and honestly, a little dispiriting. Selectman Marpe, with respect, don’t do it.

    • Well said Morley…the old adage applies here…”good intentions do not always produce good results.” I am sure this was well intended but to introduce this added level of surveillance.

      There are plenty of existing surveillance cameras around public areas now without introducing this level of progressive and intrusive monitoring. People need to focus on their situational awareness and be considerate of our fellow Westporters. While some may take comfort in this drone technology…be careful what you wish for. Common sense and proper social distancing rules should be the rule…not some drone buzzing around us monitoring our actions and vitals!

  7. Grayson Braun

    Even the City of Seattle had second thoughts on unleashing this level of surveillance on their Citizens after public opposition.

    https://www.scpr.org/news/2014/05/31/44468/lapd-gets-two-free-draganflyer-drones-from-seattle/

  8. Foti Featured on ABC news last night.

  9. Michelle Benner

    Jordan Broadbent, I don’t see how “people are sheep” plays into this. No one has voted for this and as far as I know, no one in Westport has been asked if they approve. This is Jim Marpe’s doing, a decision being made by town officials. If Westporters don’t want drone surveillance, it is our duty to write and tell them so.

    • Addison A. Armstrong

      What Michelle Benner said!

    • Jordan Broadbent

      Michelle, the sheep aspect is related to the willingness of people to accept everything out of fear without having second thoughts and there are too many out there who do that as their narrow-minded view is only concentrated on the moment without regarding the longterm consequences. It got nothing to do if Westporters voted for it and as you can see from the reactions there is lot of resilience.

  10. Grayson Braun

    Michelle is correct…write to our First Selectman (jmarpe@westportct.gov), Eileen Francis (efrancis@westportct.gov) and the full RTM (rtmmailinglist@westportct.gov).

    I just sent this earlier today:

    Dear Mr. Marpe,

    I am writing to you in reference to the “Flatten the Curve Pilot Program.”

    I am appalled by your willingness to institute an intrusive scheme that collects vast amounts of data about private citizens on public property and on behalf of a private company.

    Less than .40% of the residents of Westport have been diagnosed with Covid-19. Instead of being congratulated for keeping the numbers down we will now be surveilled in public.

    This is a time to lead but the “Flatten the Curve Pilot Program,” is not indicative of leadership. Instead it shows that you are only willing to follow…literally follow private citizens excersizing their freedom to assemble.

    The events of the last several weeks have altered our lives forever so please allow us one last shred of dignity and reconsider initiating this invasive program. 

    Regards,
    Grayson Braun

  11. Tom Feeley '87

    Quotes from the WestportNow article (CAPS are mine):

    “[Police Chief] added at the drones would not be used to monitor any private property or private clubs, UNLESS THERE IS A COMPLAINT.” So simply log a complaint against your neighbor and here comes a drone?

    “the [Westport Police] department was fortunate to be contacted by a local resident connected with Draganfly, a California-based drone company.”

    How nice. LinkedIn shows they have 12 employees. https://www.linkedin.com/company/draganflyinc/

  12. Russell Gontar

    If the goal is crowd dispersal, why not dispatch a crown vic with a couple of officers and an audio speaker on the roof. Worked in Mayberry.

  13. Mark Bachmann

    There are many scary aspects of this COVID-19 crisis, but one of the worst is the apparent readiness of governments to use it as cover for dry-running police state techniques.

    Keep surveillance drones out of our town!

  14. Bop Ippolito

    Next, we will be required to shave and tattoo a QR code on our heads so we can be identified and tracked by these drones. What Stasi in our town dreamt up this insane idea? What a Slippery Slope!

  15. Jack Backiel

    As long as these drones can’t detect bad breath, I’m safe.

  16. Bob Stalling

    And then..
    Micro dots in your vaccine anyone?
    http://news.mit.edu/2019/storing-vaccine-history-skin-1218

  17. Addison A. Armstrong

    I’ve started an online petition on change.org to immediately cease this activity and calling on the RTM to pass legislation to prohibit it in the future.
    http://chng.it/YGYn5PQ2R8

    • Grayson Braun

      Thanks for starting this, Addison! I signed it and sent a link to everyone in my contact list who lives in Westport.

    • Susan Aitkin

      Thank you Addison! I have shared to my page. I am APPALLED by this program and Westport officials for allowing it.

    • Luciano Morelli

      Signed. This is a very slippery slope, especially sending a drone over PRIVATE property without a warrant, responding to a complaint.

    • Audrey Hertzel

      Done! I’ll be sending to Westport friends as well.

  18. Kathleen Fazio

    Very ambiguous as to what will be done with the data. Is this really how we want to live? We will are now living in a police state. I guess HIPPA does not apply to drones- our temperature can be taken and shared with healthcare agencies without our knowledge? #abuseofpower

  19. Mike Stuttman

    Might be a good time to revisit the idea of a Police Commission –

    https://www.westport-news.com/news/article/Town-law-ignored-RTM-members-say-14083120.php

  20. John McCarthy

    This is not one of our proudest moments in Westport. I urge the Chief and Mr. Marpe to rethink this decision and course of action

  21. Bob Weingarten

    Just wanted to point out the following statement on the announcement posted by westportnow that “The effort will be used to monitor and enforce social distancing on public property.”

    For those that missed seeing the posting, it is at: https://westportnow.com/index.php?/v3/comments/westport_police_drones_being_used_to_combat_covid-19/

    In this posting, there is a photo of people standing on line on the sidewalk directly adjacent to Trader Joe’s with the caption of “A promotional video as part of the announcement appeared to show customers lining up at Westport’s Trader Joe’s. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Draganfly Inc. video. via YouTube”.

    What I want to point out is that I believe this sidewalk is part of the private property owned by Compo Acres LLC. Need I say more.

    • Bob Stalling

      Public property, private property, what’s the difference….we will be the judge no matter where you step out of line.
      Just know we are watching….so don’t even think about what we think you are thinking about!

  22. Holy….!!! Keep fighting Westporters! The town I remember and love so well. Data mining citizens. What is HIPPA for? To keep our health stats private between our health care providers and us. No words,.good grief!!!

  23. Anne-Marie Grey

    NO. I am opposed to this and find it hard to believe that the town proceeded with this without community consultation.

  24. Not unlike when the Westport PD decided it wanted Tazers a few years ago.
    Maslow’s Hammer.

    • John McCarthy

      Chris, that was different in that the then Chief brought tasers to the RTM for approval. If you recall we debated it and then tabled it for another night. It finally passed (I voted against them) and tasers came to Westport. There was a very good debate, and while I disagreed with the outcome, I appreciated the process. In this case it seems like a controversial technology has come to town with no public input or hearings. For something this big and controversial, we deserve a better process.

      • I well remember, as I was the one who led the charge against them! They’d already breezed through BOF approval.

        They came back probably a year later after I left RTM. I’m pretty sure if this went to RTM it would get the same “if the chief says he needs it, he needs it” approval.

        • Grayson Braun

          Yeah, but the Chief doesn’t need it and I think the comments here and on Westport Now combined with the letters and petitions that have been sent to Jim Marpe (sad that I sent mine early this morning and have not heard back from him) speak to the fact this is a terrifying example of government overreach.

          Mr. Marpe and Chief Koskinas, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

  25. Eric Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    I would string barrage balloons over my property.

  26. Nancie Rinaldi

    Thank you Addison Armstrong.

  27. I wonder is the drones will be built to withstand sling-shot projectiles. If not, the fleet may not last very long.

  28. Paul Greenberg

    It will dovetail well into Westport’s new Social Credit System that will be rolled out next year.

  29. Bill Strittmatter

    The reaction to this drone story sounds more like what would come from tin foil hat wearing deplorables from flyover country paranoid about big government intrusion into their lives rather than solidly blue, pussy hat wearing enlightened big government loving folks from Westport.

    Makes you think that maybe there is some common ground after all which would be refreshing.

    Or is it just Westport’s conservative fringe commenting today?

    Anyway, what’s next? Westport suddenly embracing the Second Amendment as the citizens last defense against the rise of the police state?

  30. I find the proposed use of drones so disturbing. Drone usage to monitor crops, to monitor environmental degradation and to fight fires is beneficial. Surveillance of the population for vital signs and is an incredible overreach.
    Do Westporters want and need technological oversight by the police force (for which I have huge respect by the way) to make right decisions in face of a health pandemic? This type of surveillance is going on in China and it’s so easy for a policy adopted in an emergency to take hold when the emergency is over.
    I will be emailing Jim Marpe and Chief Koskinas.

  31. Paul Greenberg

    Who in town is benefiting monetarily either now or in the future from this “free” arrangement? Have we studied the potential town liabilities?

    Better disclosure of interests and a town discussion are needed before we deploy drones.

    Where is the RTM oversight and leadership?

  32. joshua stein

    I wonder if this was the drone that was hovering over me in the Saugatuck Shores area while I was on private property a week or so ago… I just assumed it was someone’s personal toy… but after this article now I wonder!

  33. Addison A. Armstrong

    Sign the petition! https://www.change.org/NOtoDronesinWestportCT

    Also, does anyone have Jim Marpe’s email address, or the email address of his office?

  34. Creepy, very much so.

  35. Tom Feeley '87

    Dan: thanks for keeping the comments open. WestportNow has blocked more comments on their article. Why would a news source ever do that?

  36. Barbara Jacowleff

    I am appreciative of any effort being made on the part of the Westport Police Dept. to protect the well being of all of us in this town.
    As Gov. Cuomo of NY eloquently said, “Our job is to do no harm.”
    If we all abide by the laws, rules, and recommendations being made by those who are protecting our well being….We will overcome this pandemic and be stronger because of it.
    I am grateful to anything and everything that town leaders can do to protect all of us as we follow the guidelines and wait for the green light to advance to the next level based on health safety for all us.
    Thank you to all of those who consistently put the interest of everyone ahead of all else.
    May be grow together and support each other through these troubled times.

    • Grayson Braun

      We will overcome this anyway…

      Drones monitoring the vital statistics of crowds can’t prove that someone has or doesn’t have any virus particularly one that has proven it can be spread by asymptomatic carriers.

      • My understanding is that they go further than monitoring vital statistics, in fact they can monitor vital behaviors that will lead to the outcome for all.

  37. Werner Liepolt

    Come on. This is a needless distraction. Drones to stop social distancing. I can’t imagine how this strategy is getting us anywhere.

    Westport needs to get on the ball with testing and contact tracing. Stop evading the important issue.

  38. Werner Liepolt

    Come on. This is a needless distraction. Drones to stop social distancing. I can’t imagine how this strategy is getting us anywhere.

    Westport needs to get on the ball with testing and contact tracing. Stop evading the important issue.

  39. John McCarthy

    The company is bragging on LinkedIn about getting Westport to be guinea pigs in its Big Brother efforts https://www.linkedin.com/posts/draganflyinc_covid19-coronavirus-dronesforgood-activity-6658785415085998082-8mXh

  40. Lamont just distanced himself from the municipality that was testing the drone. He said he didnt know anything about it. Interview on fox news just now…

  41. Paul Greenberg

    So did anyone in town do due diligence on this company before agreeing to work with this company?

    https://www.sedar.com/GetFile.do?lang=EN&docClass=9&issuerNo=00048217&issuerType=03&projectNo=02956693&docId=4609136

    • Did you find anything interesting?

      • Paul Greenberg

        Pursuant to a settlement agreement (the “Settlement Agreement”) dated November 6, 1998 that Cameron Chell signed with the Alberta Stock Exchange (the “ASE”), Mr. Chell agreed to the following sanctions:
        • prohibition against ASE Approval (as defined in the General By-law of the ASE) in any capacity for a period of five years commencing November 6, 1998;
        • a fine in the sum of $25,000;
        • strict supervision for a period of two years following re-registration in any capacity; and
        • close supervision for a period of one year following the period of strict supervision described above.

    • Wendy Cusick

      “Terms of Use”
      “Last updated January 2014”

      • Paul Greenberg

        SEDAR is the Canadian Securities and Exchange Commission’s site for corporate documents. You can search for the company by name. This link will take you to the public offering document for the company. The Terms of Use Screen is to prevent bots from downloading documents. There is lots of interesting stuff in the document but I would start by looking at page 16.

  42. Grayson Braun

    Apparently there was a protest today at the Westport Police Department. Who knew? I sure wish I did…

    WTNH.com: Westport PD testing ‘pandemic drone’ to monitor social distancing, health issues around town.
    https://www.wtnh.com/news/connecticut/fairfield/westport-pd-testing-pandemic-drone-to-monitor-social-distancing-health-issues-around-town/

  43. Here it is at long last. I sat on the quietest beach In Westport – maybe 4 of us there enjoying the sun and quiet of the waves lapping against the rocks and suddenly there it was hovering over us back and forth for quite some time spying on us with no operator in sight anywhere. We all sat up and looked at one another ? WTH? This noisy interloper Invading the privacy of all of us on the beach that beautiful quiet afternoon. It moved on still over to Sherwood Island and back and after a while the owner and operator of the drone showed himself quite unabashedly flying it from one beach to the other. I got up and began filming him and as he turned to see me asked what I was doing? And I told him that if he was going to spy on me I would return the favor. To which he grabbed his machine called me words I shall not repeat, got into his car in a huff and left to the delight of the small crowd left to enjoy our peaceful afternoon. I called to register a complaint having taken his license as well about the invasion of privacy and was told there were no restrictions for these very noisy and intrusive machines flying wherever they wanted by irresponsible owners. And here we are and I’m not one bit surprised. These kinds of things have a way of wiggling into our everyday world under the guise of what’s good for us all. Frightening that yes Big Brother has always been watching but now they aren’t hiding. A very Slippery slope and most unwanted

  44. Wendy Crowther

    This story was featured on NBC’s Today Show this morning. One of the hosts of Today lives in Westport and, after the story aired, made a comment but didn’t mention the Westport connection. Concerns about privacy was a likely reason to keep that fact quiet. That’s understandable. Add a drone to that concern and we all have privacy concerns.

    • Town officials seem to be greatly enjoying all the attention that Operation “Lives of Others” has drawn. Maybe someone in the media will ask them to explain why they never leveled with residents about Party Zero. For some reason, they’re very shy about that subject.

      • that party could be an excellent case to study transmission/exposure. i wish we knew what the transmission vector was. was it a shared bathroom, people inside a single/small space, outside, food, air, etc? this information would all be very helpful. maybe someone has an idea but would be great to get some insight!

  45. Jonathan Rosenoer

    The use of pandemic drones by Westport Police is startling. It suddenly showed up all over national media. Without any advance notice to Westport residents.
    https://nypost.com/2020/04/22/connecticut-cops-use-pandemic-drone-to-fight-coronavirus/
    https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/connecticut-town-tests-pandemic-drone-detect-fevers-experts-question-if-n1189546

    As pointed out by NBC, there are no guidelines on permitted usage of the drones, just an assertion that one will be drafted sometime in the future.

    The use of drones by police departments is fraught with issues, particularly Constitutional rights regarding search and also privacy issues. See,
    https://www.aclu.org/report/protecting-privacy-aerial-surveillance-recommendations-government-use-drone-aircraft
    http://www.hastingslawjournal.org/policing-the-police-balancing-the-right-to-privacy-against-the-beneficial-use-of-drone-technology-2/
    https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/27/coronavirus-surveillance-used-by-governments-to-fight-pandemic-privacy-concerns.html
    https://www.aclu.org/news/privacy-technology/aclu-lawsuit-over-baltimore-spy-planes-sets-up-historic-surveillance-battle/

    While there is utility in the drones regarding the pandemic, a lot of thinking needs to be in place before deployment. Surveillance has its place, but must be balanced with respect for individual liberties, and to ensure that an emergency solution does not become the status quo. In American democracy, rights are reserved to the people–delegation requires conformance to a process. Was there any process here?

    • Grayson Braun

      I am fairly certain that most Westport residents learned of this on Wednesday evening after it was posted on Westport Now.

      To my knowledge and according to some of the elected officials I have communicated with, there were no public hearings or public information sessions held.

      • Grayson, that is correct (in fact, your email to the RTM was what alerted me to the situation!) and as soon as community members began emailing about this, a handful of RTM members did express their disappointment and urge our Selectman to stop this program.

  46. Paul Greenberg

    Google Streetview the company’s headquarters: 2108 St George Ave, Saskatoon, SK S7M 0K7, Canada

  47. Paul Greenberg

    CEO who was barred from trading stocks in Canada, a penny stock company with a Theranos-like board of directors, no information on security of their software, no-name headquarters on a back street. This is our counterparty!

    The company got a lot of free publicity and we might end up with egg on our faces. This is not just buying some weapon for the police dept. This stuff takes way more research and oversight. We need to have a trustworthy partner that will be around for the long haul. It certainly does not look like that from just a few minutes of due diligence.

  48. Addison A. Armstrong

    Thank you to all of you who participated in this forum and/or signed the petition. It is clear that principled and clear public opposition led the Westport leadership to reconsider their involvement in this program. The many voices -both pro and con- that were lent to this debate is a testament to our great constitution and democracy. Stay safe, my neighbors. E Pluribus Unum!

    • Thank YOU for your efforts, Addison! From the statement released by the town earlier today indicating that it has reconsidered its plan to spy on residents, I note that it also – seemingly – leaves the door open to reconstituting the spy program in the future. Therefore, I hope and trust that our direct representatives in the RTM will take the time to ask some pointed questions of those responsible. I personally would like to know exactly how this all got started; who was involved and what was said?

  49. Deep state power grab. Never let a crisis go without further violating our Constitutional rights. 4th amendment violation. Zero probable cause to be searching our bodies.