California Police Deploy DJI Drones During COVID-19 Lockdown

The Chula Vista police department recently purchased an additional two drones from Shenzhen-based drone technology giant DJI. Chula Vista’s police force told The Financial Times that the drones would be outfitted with night-vision cameras. The US currently has 43,963 cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins latest tracking data. California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered all California residents to stay home, except as needed for certain essential activities.

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In addition, the drones are capable of being equipped with speakers for large scale unmanned communication. Capitan Vern Sallee of the Chula Vista Police Department said, “We have not traditionally mounted speakers to our drones, but … if we need to cover a large area to get an announcement out, or if there were a crowd somewhere that we needed to disperse, we could do it without getting police officers involved.” He continued, “The outbreak has changed my view of expanding the program as rapidly as I can.”

Meanwhile, TechCruch reported earlier this month that the Trump administration was mulling an executive order banning federal departments and agencies from buying or using foreign-made drones, citing a risk to national security. In its broad mission to effectively manage over 500 million acres of land across the United States and its territories, the Department of the Interior has in recent years implemented drone technology to assist. Of the DOI’s fleet of 810 civilian drones only about 20% were DJI products. However, the DOI recently announced they would down their drones except for in emergency circumstances citing security concerns.

Born out of China’s hardware capital in Shenzhen, DJI is far and away the leader in drone technology. The company was estimated to have a 70% share of the global drone market in 2019.