More Police Departments Use Drones to Fight COVID-19

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Drones have arrived as a tool for local police departments looking to help control further outbreak of COVID-19 cases, reports Government Technology. The most common use appears to be using the machines to reinforce social distancing rules. If a crowd gathers in a public area, an officer deploys a drone that will, via loudspeakers and a recorded message, urge citizens to disperse. This use originated in countries like China and Spain. Elizabeth, N.J. police officers see public crowds daily, whether on street corners, in play areas or in public streets. “The practical reasoning is that a drone can cover more ground and have a greater vantage point over officers on the ground,” the department says. “It also facilitates in assisting patrol in getting to hard to reach areas. Officers can patrol remote areas without leaving their vehicle area. [Public service announcements] can be delivered in public places without the danger of officer contact.”

Keturah Greene of the Savannah, Ga., Police Department cited similar reasoning. “Since utilizing various strategies such as placing a sign board with a social distancing messaging in a popular park which is usually highly populated, utilizing the drones and by educating the community through social media, we have not had any issues recently [with public crowds],” Greene said. The Elizabeth and Savannah departments responded to concerns about the use of drones potentially infringing upon citizens’ rights. Greene indicated that “neither video footage nor audio is being captured” when Savannah police send drones to inform crowds of social distancing guidelines. Drones in Savannah aren’t involved in general patrol work. The Elizabeth Police Department said the PSAs aren’t delivered by drones for “surveillance purposes.”

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