Social Distancing Drones Are Watching Gatherings in Singapore and Sending Footage to Police

A soldier asks the public to exit the Merlion park due to the closure of the place for the Singapore National Day celebration

Singapore is taking to the skies to fight the spread of coronavirus in the tiny island nation.

Police in Singapore have been testing two pilotless drones in their efforts to enforce social distancing and curb the spread of COVID-19, Reuters reported.

The 22-pound drones from the Israeli company Airobotics are programmed to track gatherings and send footage to police. They’re able to zoom into areas that may not otherwise be visible to authorities on foot or in official vehicles.

Singapore has had more than 55,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 27 deaths. It’s been experimenting with drones for the past three and a half months.

Early on, Singapore was heralded as an example of how governments and economies could adapt to life with the coronavirus. Singapore used aggressive contact tracing, testing, and isolation to contain the virus and had reported fewer than 600 cases in early April, a time when France, Spain, and several parts of the U.S. were under lockdown.

Singapore’s caseload had risen sharply by the end of April, with many cases being connected to overcrowded dorms housing hundreds of thousands of foreign workers.

Singapore is requiring returning residents and others cleared for travel into the country to quarantine for two weeks while wearing electronic monitoring devices to track their movements. Singapore had been quarantining anyone entering the country in luxury hotels but has since adopted electronic monitoring devices.

A man wearing a face mask walks past a safe distancing ambassador robot outside an office building in Singapore on August 11, 2020

Singapore already is known for its strict laws and widespread surveillance that includes CCTV in public areas and neighborhoods, mandatory SIM card registration, and the monitoring of communications.

A four-legged robot called Spot, which broadcasts a recorded message reminding people to observe safe distancing as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19

Singapore also released an app called TraceTogether that alerts users when they've been close to someone confirmed to have coronavirus. The app uses bluetooth signals to create a database of users for authorities to track, an approach that has led to questions surrounding privacy protections.

China, South Korea, and Israel are also using cellphones to track coronavirus transmission and conduct contact tracing.

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