Countries Are Using Drones to Enforce Social Distancing and Quarantine

Updated: May 20


Image Credit: Wix Stock Library

John Hopkins Medicine defines Social Distancing as “deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness.” They go on to state that staying a minimum of six feet away from other people can decrease your chances of catching COVID-19. To prevent the outbreak from continuing to grow, areas have gone on lockdown, canceling events, closing non-essential businesses, and overall just encouraging people to stay indoors. Despite these measures and the advice given by health officials and governing bodies, there are still people gathering in large groups and going about their days as normal.

This, unfortunately, is counterproductive to people’s efforts to prevent the spread of the virus and protect each other, especially those who are immunocompromised and the elderly. To combat this, police forces in different countries are relying on drones to alert citizens and urge those still going outside to stay at home.

Video Credit: Wall Street Journal

According to the South China Morning Post, Chinese authorities have been working with industrial UAV companies Shenzhen Smart Drone UAV Co., Ltd. and Shenzhen MicroMultiCopter Aero Technology to adapt drones to alleviate the outbreak. In many cities, China is enforcing “ the world’s largest quarantine,” equipped with thermal sensors, loudspeakers, zoom lenses and flood lights for disease detection and crowd management.

The Madrid Municipal Police in Spain is following suit by also deploying drones equipped with cameras and loudspeakers. Their aim is to advise citizens on the street to go home, which they posted about on Twitter on March 14th. Using quadcopters has been helpful in navigating areas like parks, which are only accessible by pedestrians. Furthermore, the speakers allow the officers to disseminate information widely via radio while the cameras are being used to locate people who are out and about.

Video Credit: No Comment TV (euronews)

Now we are seeing similar techniques being used in France. The French government has advised its citizens to stay at home and only leave for essentials such as getting food, going to work, or seeking medical help. Similar to other places, France is seeing many people underestimating the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak and not adhering to their government’s confinement order.

Police in Nice, also known as the French Riviera city, are working with a local private drone operator to fly a drone equipped with a loudspeaker over popular locations to remind their citizens the same thing: STAY INSIDE. There are plans to obtain a second drone to be used in Cannes.

I am a writer and an artist based in Georgia. Specializing in illustration, graphic design, and video art, I love to explore the new ways technology intersects with art. I think drones have done amazing things for photography and video art, making what would previously be costly and difficult more accessible. As a complete novice, it was only recently that I saw what independent artists could do with their drones, and I continue to be impressed by the sights that drones are able to explore and the images they can capture. Instagram: @tyesha.ferron

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