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Colombia drones seek out people with fever

In need of a checkup? If you’re in Colombia’s capital, Bogota, you may get one whether you want to or not. The city is deploying drones with infrared cameras to spot residents who may have fevers due to COVID-19.

Police in Colombia’s capital are deploying drones to monitor public places for anyone who may be running a fever. (They also looks for crowds breaking stay at-home orders.) If the drone spots someone with a potentially high temperature, authorities dispatch a medical team to check for coronavirus symptoms.

“It gives us an approximate body temperature and directs the case to a national system so it can be attended to,” Captain Jorge Humberto Caceres, head of the police drone unit, told Reuters.

The Colombia drones monitor only temperatures and groupings of people in public places, say the police. The drones are not able to monitor people in their homes. Still, it’s a very intense form of scrutiny, and possibly not that accurate. Draganfly, the maker of a “pandemic drone” to seek coronavirus symptoms, rejected using just a thermal camera as an accurate measure of whether someone has a fever.

But Bogota officials feel they have to do something to get a handle on the pandemic. The city is home to about a third of the country’s nearly 17,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. While some parts of the country have begun reopening, Bogota’s mayor has placed a dozen areas of the capital with high infection rates under special restrictions as orange alert areas.

“Without a doubt the use of these technologies from the national police has been very useful in these orange alerts areas,” said Julian Moreno, the district mayor for the city’s Suba district, which with 1.4 million residents, has the second-highest infection rate in the city.

Photo: Jason Blackeye/Unsplash



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Sean Captain is a Bay Area technology, science, and policy journalist. Follow him on Twitter @SeanCaptain.