Elizabeth, N.J., uses drones to enforce social distancing

Five drones loaned to the city from DJI are equipped with pre-recorded messages from Mayor Chris Bollwage, reminding the public to stay indoors during the pandemic.
guy holding drone
(David Henrichs / Unsplash)

Police in Elizabeth, New Jersey, are using drones to play recorded messages that tell residents to practice social distancing and stay indoors, the Elizabeth Police Department announced on its Facebook page Tuesday.

The tactic, which mirrors a practice first seen in China and subsequently implemented using loudspeakers in Spain and France earlier this year, is intended to remind residents to obey a social distancing order put in place March 21 by Gov. Phil Murphy.

Elizabeth police have been using drones since 2018, according to the Facebook post, but five new vehicles loaned to the department by the Chinese drone manufacturer DJI have been equipped with “voice capabilities.”

“These drones will be around the City with an automated message from the Mayor telling you to STOP gathering, disperse and go home,” the Facebook post reads. Summonses HAVE AND WILL CONTINUE to be issued to those found in violation. Fines are up to $1000. You have been advised.”


Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage said Tuesday the city had confirmed 1,403 cases of COVID-19. As of Wednesday, New Jersey has the second-most cases, after New York, with more than 47,000, including 1,504 fatalities.

Colin Wood

Written by Colin Wood

Colin Wood is the editor in chief of StateScoop and EdScoop. He's reported on government information technology policy for more than a decade, on topics including cybersecurity, IT governance and public safety.

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