Coronavirus

California Cops Enlist Drones For Lockdown Enforcement

drone

A police department in California is going to use drones equipped with loudspeakers to help enforce the state lockdown orders imposed due to the coronavirus, according to a report by the Financial Times.

The Chula Vista PD has purchased two drones worth $11,000 each. They’re made by DJI, a Chinese company, and the department plans to also add night vision cameras to the flying vehicles.

“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 Chula Vista Police Captain Vern Sallee. “The outbreak has changed my view of expanding the [program] as rapidly as I can.”

Just weeks ago there was talk that Chinese-made drones were a threat to American security, but authorities are increasingly looking to them as alternatives to human contact as the coronavirus crisis continues.

The chief executive of Impossible Aerospace, Spencer Gore, said that he was “working like crazy” to help other law enforcement organizations implement drone programs. 

“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,” Gore said. “It seems a little Orwellian but this could save lives.”

The vice president of policy and legal affairs at DJI, Brendan Schulman, said the Federal Aviation Administration should “readily grant waivers on restrictions that might impede beneficial operations.” 

Other groups, like the Commercial Drone Alliance, which counts companies like Apple and Uber among its members, want regulation of drones to be sped up.

“There are many use cases for drones that can aid the nation,” said Lisa Ellman, the group’s executive director.

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