drone coronavirus quarantine
© China Daily via Reuters
People in rural China are being publicly shamed by talking drones for not wearing face masks or for venturing outside unnecessarily.
A California police department is planning on using drones equipped with cameras and loudspeakers to monitor a coronavirus shutdown.

The Chula Vista Police Department recently doubled its fleet of drones, purchasing two of the machines from Chinese company DJI. The police department told the Financial Times that they would be outfitted with night-vision cameras.

"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 Capt. Vern Sallee.

"The outbreak has changed my view of expanding the program as rapidly as I can," Sallee added.

U.S. officials have warned about the threat Chinese-made drones could pose to the United States. The company that the police department is purchasing from, DJI, is the world's largest player in the civilian drone industry.

Spencer Gore, chief executive of U.S.-based drone company Impossible Aerospace, said he is "working like crazy" to help equip other law enforcement agencies with drones and emphasized that the hardware his company uses is made domestically.

"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."

Comment: No, it is just Orwellian. Welcome to the dystopia heralded by the masses.

Another use for drones, at least for the Chula Vista police, might be to help spread the message about the coronavirus to homeless people who may not receive information any other way.

"We need to tell them we actually have resources for them — they are vulnerable right now," Sallee said. "It might be impractical or unsafe for our officers to be put into those areas."

Drones are starting to play a larger role in society and crime. U.S. Border Patrol agents are having issues with smugglers using drones to watch them as they work along the southern border. The drones are also used to move small quantities of drugs across the border.

At the peak of China's coronavirus outbreak, the country used talking drones to force citizens in certain areas to wear face masks.

"Where is your mask? Wear your mask!" operators of the drones shouted at passersby in Chinese.

In Belgium, which has more than 3,700 cases of the coronavirus, authorities have begun using drones to warn citizens about a lockdown that was put in place. Drones could be seen hovering overhead and reading off medical guidelines to people below.

"Take care of yourself and others," a woman's voice blares.

The news comes as cases of the coronavirus across the U.S. have increased dramatically. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned on Monday that the coronavirus pandemic was " going to get bad" this week. Estimates of how many people will become infected vary, but some states have taken stringent measures to stop the spread, including closing all nonessential businesses.

In the U.S., there have been more than 35,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 473 deaths, according to the latest reading by the Johns Hopkins University tracker.