Daytona Beach cops use DJI drones to enforce COVID-19 park closure

police drones

After weeks of resisting, Florida governor Ron DeSantis issued a COVID-19 stay-at-home order last week. Now police in Daytona Beach are using loudspeaker-equipped drones to warn residents about park closures.

The police department received two DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise drones on loan from the company’s COVID-19 U.S. Disaster Relief Program. These drones have flown in most city parks in the past week, announcing that the facilities are closed. As Sgt. Tim Ehrenkaufer, head of the department’s Unmanned Aviation Systems Unit, explained the purpose to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

What we’re doing with the drone is reducing the officer having to go out there, walk into the park property, walk into a crowd of people, share those germs back and forth, just to deliver a message that the park’s closed, don’t be in here.

Daytona Beach is following the lead of several Mideast countries. Governments in Jordan, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates have all used drones for COVID-19 public-service announcements. They include reminders to practice social distancing and pleas for people to stay at home.

Embracing drone technology

Daytona Beach’s effort contrasts with the situation in New York City. There, a self-proclaimed “Anti-COVID-19 Volunteer Drone Task Force” flew a drone along the Hudson river, urging people to maintain social distance. The NYPD says that it had no connection to the drone effort. And the FAA announced that it is investigating the incident for possible violations of its drone regulations. In Daytona Beach, authorities are embracing drone technology in the fight against COVID-19, rather than cracking down.

Ehrenkaufer also announced another possible use of drones. Police are considering using a larger model to take the temperature of people entering the police station. For this, police would use one of their larger drones equipped with a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera. People with a normal body temperature appear orange in the camera’s display, said Ehrenkaufer. People with fevers appear bright red.

Again, Daytona would be following the lead of other countries, and cities. Jordan and Saudi Arabia, for instance, have both used drones with heat-sensing cameras to survey crowds for people with fevers. New York City has also used a heat-sensing drone to check the temperature of visitors entering a makeshift hospital at the Javits Convention Center.

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