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Spanish cops deploy speaker-drones to enforce coronavirus lockdown

As China grappled to contain the coronavirus earlier this month, reports emerged of how the authorities there were turning to drone technology for assistance.

The remotely controlled flying machines were adapted to carry a range of equipment, including chemical spray jets for disinfecting outdoor spaces, thermal sensors to detect people’s body temperatures, and loudspeakers for ordering people to return home or to wear a mask when out and about.

Having put the country into lockdown over the weekend as part of its own drastic measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus — formally known as COVID-19 — Spain, too, has started putting drones in the sky to help tackle the ongoing situation.

The Madrid Municipal Police posted a video on Twitter on Sunday showing a quadcopter in the sky fitted with a loudspeaker telling people who were on the street to return home if they weren’t supposed to be out.

A message posted with the video said (translated): “We will not hesitate to use all the means at our disposal to ensure your security and that of everyone, although some still make it difficult for us …”

The government has ordered its population of 47 million people to remain indoors for at least the next 15 days in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, which in Spain has so far led to nearly 350 deaths from almost 10,000 reported cases, making it the fourth worst-hit country at the current time, after China, Italy, and Iran.

The emergency order allows people to leave their homes to buy food, collect medicines, see a doctor, and commute to work. All schools and universities in Spain are now closed, as are restaurants, bars, hotels, and other non-essential retail businesses.

While Madrid police could also stick speakers on cars and bellow out its message while driving the streets (it may well be doing that, too), the camera-equipped drones can also help cops to more easily find people wandering around, and also offer easy access to pedestrian-only spaces like parks.

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