Well, it seems like it had to happen sooner or later. Following similar moves by police in Spain and France, cops in the U.S. are now using drones with loudspeakers that yell at people to stay home during the pandemic.
The so-called speaker-drones have taken to the skies over Elizabeth City in New Jersey, which has been in lockdown since March 21 due to the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19
In one of his regular briefings during the pandemic, Chris Bollwage, mayor of Elizabeth City, told residents that five speaker-equipped drones will help the police to manage the lockdown.
The flying machines will blurt out an automated message telling folks to stop gathering together outside and to return home. Anyone who ignores the message could be fined up to $1,000, Elizabeth police warned in a Facebook post. Under the rules of the state’s lockdown, people are only allowed out for essential business and exercise.
Following a backlash on social media from people upset at the decision to use drones to help enforce the lockdown, Elizabeth police said it was only trying to save lives, adding that no recordings were being made, or pictures snapped.
Regarding comments on drones, we are trying to save lives, not be big brother. If this plan saves 1 life, then its worth it. All its doing is spreading an automated notice about social distance. No recording or pictures are taken, just a tool of encouragement to follow the rules. pic.twitter.com/KnptwsxBQ2
— Elizabeth NJ Police (@epdnj) April 8, 2020
The city’s use of speaker-drones follows similar deployments in France and Spain, with both countries also locked down as part of measures designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Cops in the U.K. have also been using drones during the pandemic, but instead of broadcasting recorded messages, they used captured aerial footage to shame people for being outdoors in apparent violation of stay-at-home rules. Civil liberties group Big Brother Watch described the tactic as “sinister” and “counter-productive.”
News of Elizabeth City’s new drones comes just a few days after a speaker-drone appeared in nearby New York City relaying messages about the importance of socially distancing. No one appears to know where it came from, including the New York Police Department. The Federal Aviation Administration said it’s investigating the mysterious flight.