Coronavirus Outbreak Prompts Chinese Drone Deployment

Chinese authorities are now deploying drones to help in the fight against the new coronavirus outbreak. Videos have emerged on the Twitter-like Chinese social media platform Weibo of interactions between citizens and the unmanned aircraft. Authorities are using the drones to monitor behavior and speak directly to members of the public who are breaking the rules put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

China has been using drones on a mass scale since 2016. Many of the drones have loudspeakers to allow the authorities to interact with the subject of the surveillance. One video of the videos recently posted to social media showed a drone being used to disperse a group of people playing mahjong outdoors. Others show drones urging passersby to not wander outside without a protective face mask.

The coronavirus outbreak began in Hubei province in Dec. 2019. China imposed a lockdown on the province on Jan. 23. According to the latest Chinese government figures, there are 20,438 confirmed cases of coronavirus in mainland China. As many as 190 cases have been reported in over two dozen other nations and territories. There have been 420 deaths resulting from the virus.

Reports from around the country indicate that drones are also being used to cover cities and villages with disinfectant spray. According to Chinese agricultural technology country XAG, the disinfectant is effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus via contaminated surfaces. Officials have also started using drones in the southern city of Zhongshan to monitor how hospitals are disposing of medical waste.

Drones are only one component of a larger effort by the Chinese government to address the coronavirus outbreak. Other measures include imposing travel restrictions to its semi-autonomous regions of Hong Kong and Macau, letting only a single member of a family leave once every two days to retrieve food in quarantine areas, and forcing people in other provinces to submit to temperature checks when arriving and leaving certain areas. Failing to abide by the instructions can result in arrest.