FAA investigates drone that told New Yorkers to maintain social distancing

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating a drone that flew over New York City’s East River Promenade and encouraged pedestrians to maintain a distance of 6 feet, the New York Post reports.

On April 5, CBS shared footage of a drone hovering over the water while instructing pedestrians to follow the city’s social distancing guidelines.

“This is the anti-COVID-19 volunteer drone task force,” the craft announces in the video. “Please maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet. Again, please maintain social distancing. Please help stop the spread of this virus. Reduce the death toll and save lives. For your own safety and your family’s safety, please maintain social distancing. Thank you for your cooperation. We are all in this together.”

As the drone relays the message, the pedestrians — many of whom don’t have masks on — seem unconcerned.

The clip has since between retweeted more than 7,500 times.

“NYC has the largest corona outbreak in the US, yet its citizens aren’t staying home and don’t seem overly worried about social distancing,” one person asked in response. “Is it safe to come out now in Manhattan? Or is Covid just a Bronx problem?”

“WTF is going on in our country?!?” another commented. “I feel like I’m in a bad dystopian movie … creepy.”

The FAA told the Post that “it is looking into the drone flight to determine if it was compliant with Federal Aviation Regulations” while adding that the agency had “no jurisdiction over the message broadcast by the drone.”

According to the Gothamist, operating drones over large parts of New York — including almost all of Manhattan — is illegal. The city has also increased fines from $500 to $1,000 on those who don’t follow social distancing rules.

In other parts of the world, drones have been similarly deployed to enforce guidelines as they pertain to the health crisis. Authorities in China, for instance, have used drones in both large cities and rural villages to tell residents to stay home or wear masks. Police in Belgium and Spain have also employed drones.

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