As the coronavirus spreads throughout mainland China, the government has deployed audio-enabled drones to scold people for not wearing masks — or for simply being outside.
The drones broadcast messages from remote human monitors that single out people who are not wearing masks, reminding them to put one on and telling them they need to go home. "You see, we've been telling people to stay at home but you still wander outside," a voice says. "Now a drone is watching you."
This isn't confined to major cities where the risk of human-to-human contagion is much higher. Even in some remote villages of Inner Mongolia, drones are confronting people and reprimanding them for being outside. In some cases, you can actually see people's shock once they realize what is happening. Some of the footage appears to show the drone following people home or chasing them off.
Watch the unnerving footage below.
"Yes, auntie, this is the drone speaking to you," a voice says to a bewildered elderly woman who walks away quickly once the drone starts instructing her.
"You see, we've been telling people to stay at home but you still wander outside," the voice continues. "Now a drone is watching you."
#WATCH: Drone reminds pedestrians to wear a face mask in Suqian, Shuyang Province, #China. According to state media this is part of a campaign to stop the spread of the #coronavirus. The clip is by #Beijing News’ WeVideo. pic.twitter.com/aZb9REa6Tp— Oscar Margain (@OscarJournalist) February 2, 2020
Drones do have several potential uses in a crisis situation such as the one presented by the coronavirus outbreak. For example, China is now testing using drones to spray disinfectant over larger areas.
Coronavirus drone army deployed to spray disinfectant across China cities— sally (@sallyKP) February 2, 2020
Video from drones, like the footage below, can also be very helpful to authorities seeking realtime intelligence about large urban areas without any of the risks associated with a large human deployment.
LOCKDOWN: Haunting drone footage shows nearly empty road and waterways in typically busting Wuhan, China, amid a citywide lockdown over the deadly coronavirus outbreak. https://t.co/APOsRCEllj pic.twitter.com/LptEYbuHVQ— ABC News (@ABC) January 31, 2020