California Police Eyeing Using Drones in the Fight Against COVID-19

CHULA VISTA, California — Chula Vista police say they may begin using drones equipped with speakers in the fight against COVID-19, sending them out to reach vulnerable populations in inaccessible areas like urban canyons with homeless encampments.

The city launched its drone program in 2017 and uses the devices to fly public safety missions in response to emergencies.

“Unsheltered persons are particularly vulnerable to the current pandemic and their safety and welfare is important to stopping the spread of the disease,” Chula Vista police Capt. Vern Sallee said. “Left without proactive communication and outreach, COVID-19 could spread in these populations and increase illness throughout our community.”

Sallee said police officers are not actively enforcing the state’s stay-at-home order, but are focused on education. Like many jurisdictions, Chula Vista has closed its parks in hopes of reducing the spread of coronavirus.

Police have been told to take note of gatherings that exceed 10 people and businesses that are open that are not considered essential and to remind the public of the stay-home order.

“Staff have been directed to educate the public and ask for voluntary compliance with the governor’s order to stay at home,” Sallee said. “Staff are encouraging the public to refrain from leaving home if possible and have been directed to remain highly visible, to be a resource to our community and to prevent crime.”

Sallee said drones will not be use for random patrol or to follow residents going about their daily routines.

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©2020 The San Diego Union-Tribune

Karen Kucher
The San Diego Union-Tribune
Mar 25th, 2020