A California drone startup called Airspace Systems makes unmanned aircraft that can chase down and capture other drones. On Thursday, the company released new software that allows their drones to monitor social distancing and face-mask wearing from the air during the coronavirus pandemic.
Are you wearing your mask? Airspace Systems drones can tell.
The video stream captured by the drone is analyzed by Airspace Systems' software and can identify when people are gathering or if they are wearing facial masks. The new software solution can also be used in combination with ground-based cameras. Airspace Systems is planning to sell the software application to cities and Police departments.
Instead of using facial recognition, Airspace Systems creates text-based data that informs local law enforcement how many people in a given area are crowding together and what percentage of those people are wearing face masks. Local law enforcement will receive alerts generated by the software.
According to Reuters, Airspace Systems chief executive, Jaz Banga said that the software does not track individuals. However, Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project said that the system is still “a step toward robots that are monitoring our behavior,” even when it is not using facial recognition. Stanley said:
“Do we want to be in a world where machine security guards are watching our every move and blowing the whistle on every petty violation of every law, rule, statute, or guideline? That's potentially a nightmare vision.”
Airspace Systems strives to help cities monitor public spaces that tend to get crowded such as bus stops and train stations.
“You can design better barriers. You can disinfect that area if you're allowed to do that in that area,” Banga said. “It just gives you more targeting to create safer environments.”
As we have learned from the Draganfly test in Westport, Connecticut where they used a drone to analyze human behavior and look for people with an elevated heart rate, body temperature, or who were coughing, the general public is very wary of these kinds of monitoring solutions.
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