As the COVID-19 pandemic ravages New York City, a drone has been hovering above pedestrians reminding them to practice social distancing. Take a look:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 5, 2020
“This is the Anti-COVID-19 volunteer drone task force,” a speaker on the drone says in the video. “Please maintain a social distance of at least six feet. Again, please maintain social distancing. Please help stop the spread of this virus. Reduce the death toll and save lives. For your own safety and your families’ safety please maintain social distancing. Thank you for your cooperation. We are all in this together.”
As noted by BizPac Review, the video echoed a similar effort enacted by the Chinese government wherein drones were utilized to remind people to wear masks outside.
Chinese officials in rural areas are creatively using #drones to make sure local residents don‘t gather together without wearing masks during the nationwide battle against the #coronavirus. https://t.co/e6khcWvUrx pic.twitter.com/td7u1ZZ4Kz
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) January 31, 2020
The use of drones to help enforce social distancing guidelines has been proposed in states beyond New York as well. As the Washington Examiner reported in late March:
A police department in southern California is looking into different ways its drones can help during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Chula Vista Police Department recently doubled its fleet with the purchase of two machines. The police department told the Financial Times that they would be outfitted with cameras.
Capt. Vern Sallee of the Chula Vista Police Department said that the drones may use speakers in order to get an announcement to a large area.
“We have not traditionally mounted speakers to our drones, but … if we need to cover a large area to get an announcement out, or if there were a crowd somewhere that we needed to disperse, we could do it without getting police officers involved,” said Sallee.
That said, Sallee said that the drones would not be used as a routine patrol unit, noting that they cannot be equipped with speakers and a night vision camera at the same time.
In a press release, the Chula Vista Police Department said the drones would be most helpful in spreading social distancing messages to homeless people.
“The department is considering one strategy to use drone-mounted speakers to communicate and reach vulnerable populations in inaccessible areas of the city, like large urban canyons with homeless encampments,” the department said. “Unsheltered persons are particularly vulnerable to the current pandemic, and their safety and welfare is important to stopping the spread of the disease.”
Spencer Gore, chief executive of Impossible Aerospace, simultaneously said that his company has been working around the clock to supply more law enforcement agencies with drones.
“What we saw in China, and what we’re probably going to see around the world, is using drones with cameras and loudspeakers to fly around to see if people are gathering where they shouldn’t be, and telling them to go home,” Spencer Gore, chief executive of Impossible Aerospace, said. “It seems a little Orwellian, but this could save lives.”
Similar measures have been enacted in Belgium.
“In Belgium, which has more than 3,700 cases of the coronavirus, authorities have begun using drones to warn citizens about a lockdown that was put in place,” reported the Washington Examiner. “Drones could be seen hovering overhead and reading off medical guidelines to people below.”