Drones being used to monitor Social Distancing

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Drones equipped with loudspeaker systems are now being commonly used in the Covid-19 crisis to monitor communities for compliance to public safety orders – but some readers complain that being watched by police from the air is just plain “creepy.”

The FAA says it is investigating a “Volunteer Drone Task Force” flying over Manhattan parks to remind people of social distancing. While that drone isn’t operated by public safety officials, the idea has been embraced in other U.S. cities and around the world. Police in Daytona Beach, Florida were the first in the U.S. to use drones to disperse crowds: the method allows police to maintain a safe distance and protect themselves from infection, while providing a gentle reminder to maintain appropriate space. According to a report in The Hill, police in Savannah, Georgia will also use drones to enforce social distancing: “We are in the middle of a crisis. We’re on our peak time frame and we’re serious about social distancing. The reason why we have so many cases we have is because, two weeks ago people felt that life was normal. It is not normal,” Van Johnson, mayor of Savannah, said.

In Massachusetts, the local ABC news channel reports that police in their state are also considering using drones to monitor social distancing, saying that during the Covid-19 crisis, the benefits of the technology must be weighed against any privacy concerns. In Connecticut, the Hartford Courant reports, police in some communities will use drones in public parks to enforce distancing. New Jersey also has announced plans to launch a drone announcement program.

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