Corona controls: German police use drones

To monitor measures against Covid-19, the federal states of Hesse and Bavaria deploy quadrocopters. In North Rhine-Westphalia, they fly over parks and gardens with a loudspeaker to instruct the population. A planned deployment in Frankfurt apparently does not take place in the end.

The police in Frankfurt am Main (Hesse) used a drone to monitor whether meetings were being held despite a ban due to the new corona virus. Background were the celebrations announced for Thursday on the occasion of high school graduation exams, which traditionally take place in the central Grüneburgpark. When asked, the police press office announced that the operation was carried out according to § 14 of the Hessian Law on Public Safety and Order (HSOG). It determines the police powers to collect and process data in public places and „particularly endangered public institutions“.

In Bavaria, small unmanned aircraft are also used for observation during the corona crisis. At Schengen borders, they are intended to assess traffic jams caused by the reintroduction of border controls. The small drones will complement a helicopter which is also deployed.

Announcements above „popular meeting points“

In addition, quadrocopters fly in at least two cities in North Rhine-Westphalia to control curfews. According to a media report, they are used by the police in Dortmund and Düsseldorf „to provide information about the health risks of not respecting the no-contact rule“. The drones are equipped with loudspeakers and circle above groups of people „at popular meeting points“. They were then „requested to leave the places“. According to the report, the State Ministry of Interior considers the deployment as positive.

Aerial announcements with the help of a drone are known from Baden-Wuerttemberg, among others, where they were used by a SWAT team for a house eviction in Freiburg in October. The drone was a „Mavic Enterprise“ from the Chinese manufacturer DJI, which was equipped with a loudspeaker from the company’s accessories. A second drone, presumably from the State Criminal Police Office, observed the action from the air.

Criticism in Frankfurt

However, Baden-Wuerttemberg is not planning to use its loudspeaker drone to fight Covid-19. The police authorities in Berlin and Hamburg, who use quadrocopters for aerial observation, also deny such plans.

In view of the summer temperatures, police drone flights were also announced this weekend in Frankfurt. However, according to a local newspaper, this operation is not to take place. A law professor had criticized the measure because of a missing authorization basis. He added that the reference in the Law on Public Safety and Order cited by the police did not cover surveillance with drones.

Image: A loudspeaker-equipped „Mavic Enterprise“ of the police in Baden-Württemberg (Wohnraum Gestalten, Freiburg).

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.