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Drones in Italy

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Drones with heat sensors are used to spot people infected with coronavirus walking around during lock-down in Italy

Italian police are using drones with thermal sensors to detect people with coronavirus out in public during the strict lock-down.

The small drone flies above virus ho t spots such as Bergamo in the Lombardy region, measuring the temperature of those below.

It then tells residents to go home and can even be used to issue fines if they are seen to have a raised temperature. 

If a suspect is seen with a raised temperature, police on the ground will then approach and take a reading by hand.

The hovering drone emits a mechanical buzz reminiscent of a wasp and shouts down instructions in a tinny voice.

A heat sensor takes the offender's temperature and sends the information to a drone operator, who stares at a thermal map on his hand-held screen - shining orange and purple blobs.

'Violations of the regulations result in administrative and criminal penalties,' the drone says.

Italy's coronavirus epicentre in the northern province of Bergamo, in Lombardy, has had enough of people spreading COVID-19.

Matteo Copia, police commander in Treviolo, near Bergamo, said: 'Once a person's temperature is read by the drone, you must still stop that person and measure their temperature with a normal thermometer. But drones are useful for controlling the territory.' 

Italy was the first Western democracy to enter a national lockdown in the face of a disease that has officially killed more than 18,000 in the Mediterranean country and nearly 100,000 worldwide.

It is now one of several European nations using police drones to an extent that would have seemed unimaginable - and almost certainly unacceptable - just a month ago.

Drones keep people off Paris's river quays and monitor water consumption in Spain. In Italy, they try to figure out who has COVID-19.

The official death toll in Lombardy, an industrial area of 10 million people, stood at 10,022 early on Friday - meaning one in 1,000 people have died of the disease in a matter of weeks. 

The death toll appears to have peaked and the number of new daily infections is dropping to a point where Italy might soon start seeing the number of formally registered COVID-19 cases decline.


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