Cops use drones to shame people flouting lockdown rules

Trevor Mogg

Drones have been taking to the skies in new ways since the coronavirus outbreak began at the start of the year.

Police in France and Spain, for example, have attached loudspeakers to their quadcopters, using them to blast audio messages to folks flouting lockdown orders recently imposed in both countries. Similar kinds of deployments have been seen in China, too.

Now, in Derbyshire, England, about 100 miles north-west of London, the police have used footage from drones to make a video shaming people who were out and about in apparent defiance of a similar lockdown order recently put in place by the U.K. government.

The 90-second video (below) shows vehicles in a parking lot at a remote beauty spot, as well as people taking leisurely strolls — despite a nationwide order only to travel if it’s essential.

“We know that people are traveling to visit these areas,” Derbyshire Police tweeted, noting that some cars had come from up to 10 miles away. “Daily exercise should be taken locally to your home. Under government guidance, all travel is limited to essential travel only.”

Derbyshire Police rejected accusations of overstepping the mark with the use of video drones, insisting that it would “not be apologetic for using any legal and appropriate methods to keep people safe.” It added that walks and picnics “were all lovely things to do, but not in the middle of a pandemic that is literally costing people their lives.”

But it’s not just the police that are keen to deploy drones in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Commercial drone company Draganfly is developing a so-called “pandemic drone” with an onboard thermal sensor and smart computer vision technology that enables it to remotely monitor and detect individuals with infectious and respiratory conditions.

Americans concerned about the authorities deploying drones for whatever purpose during the pandemic can probably relax, as the Department of the Interior earlier this year grounded its entire fleet of Chinese-made drones over fears that they might be used for spying.

For the latest updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 page.