NJ Town Resorts to Talking Drones to Enforce Social Distancing

The DJI drones, with voice and siren capabilities, will play a warning from the mayor

NBC Universal, Inc.

If you're violating the social distancing orders in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and you suddenly start hearing voices telling you to go home, it's not some odd symptom of COVID-19.

It's the mayor scolding you from a talking drone.

The city said Tuesday it has started using a fleet of five drones with voice and siren capabilities, on loan from manufacturer DJI, to patrol public areas and warn violators.

"These drones will be around the City with an automated message from the Mayor telling you to STOP gathering, disperse and go home," Elizabeth police wrote on Facebook. "Summonses HAVE AND WILL CONTINUE to be issued to those found in violation. Fines are up to $1000. You have been advised."

The idea of using drones to break up crowds during the virus-driven lockdown was popularized in China, where they were used aggressively to patrol public spaces and neighborhoods.

New Jersey is the second-most affected state in the country, with more than 44,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 1,200 deaths.

Elizabeth is one of the state's hardest-hit towns, with more than 1,200 confirmed cases. The town is also dealing with a serious outbreak at one of its nursing homes, where nearly two dozen people have died.

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