California Police to Use Patrol Drones with Night-vision Cameras During Coronavirus Lockdown

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 tell them to go home,” Gore said. “It seems a little Orwellian, but this could save lives.”

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.”

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SOURCE: The Washington Examiner – Zachary Halaschak