Video: Ga. police use 'talking' drone to enforce social distancing
Police officials say the drone will be 'another tool in the toolbox' in the department's response to COVID-19
Savannah Morning News
SAVANNAH, Ga. — Savannah police began utilizing high technology — literally — to remind the public about social-distancing guidelines in place citywide during the coronavirus pandemic on Saturday, April 11.
As locals shopped for farmers’ market produce in Forsyth Park on Saturday, a recording with a metallic tone not unlike the voice of Robocop blared from the sky.
“THIS IS THE SAVANNAH POLICE DEPARTMENT. DUE TO THE CURRENT HEALTH EMERGENCY, MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC ARE REMINDED TO KEEP A SAFE DISTANCE OF SIX FEET FROM OTHERS WHILE IN PUBLIC PLACES TO REDUCE THE SPREAD OF THE CORONAVIRUS,” a drone repeatedly declared while soaring above Forsyth Park.
Down below, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson joined Police Chief Roy Minter and other officers steering the drone by remote control. This 21st-century airborne device, usually used by Savannah police for SWAT team incidents and major traffic accidents, is now being deployed to encourage social distancing during the ongoing COVID-19 state of emergency, according to Minter.
“We’ll use this as another tool in our toolbox,” Minter said, noting that the talking drone would complement the police department’s electronic billboard that is also being used to encourage social distancing in Forsyth Park and Daffin Park. “The drone may be over in Daffin next weekend; it may be over in Daffin tomorrow.”
Johnson, who has expressed frustration over the large number of locals congregating in Forsyth Park after he issued a shelter-at-home declaration in mid-March, said that he sees improvement in the way people are abiding by social-distancing guidelines nowadays, but that Savannah police would continue enforcing the emergency measures.
“They can listen to the mayor, or they can listen to the police,” Johnson said of locals who are still gathering in close proximity, noting that other Savannah police units — including mounted officers at Forsyth Park on Saturday — could also crack down on social-distancing transgressors. “When you look at this [drone], and you look at our horses, these are the multidimensional aspects of a world-class police department.”
Johnson jokingly added that more forceful robots could be unleashed on Savannah residents who do not abide by his emergency orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The mayor offered no comment to a reporter’s inquiry about the possibility of Daleks being deployed in the near future.