Drones are often seen as weapon against terrorist suspects, a state snooping device or a novelty tool for delivering things like pizza. But since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, drones have acquired a new role. They now deliver medical supplies to vulnerable and often isolated individuals and communities in countries such as Rwanda, Ghana and Chile. In China and India, drones are used to disinfect public spaces. They can even counter the boredom of social isolation by carrying cameras that give us a glimpse of our empty cities and beauty spots. In Cyprus, a man used his drone to take his dog for a walk during lockdown. But the surveillance capabilities of this technology raise the spectre of a digital form of authoritarianism and a corresponding erosion of our human rights. A Paris court recently suspended the use of COVID-19 drone surveillance in the French capital until privacy concerns are addressed. As governments begin their exit from lockdown, it is imperative that we assess the long-term human rights implications of drones and the likelihood of their continued use.

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Schippers, B. 2020, 'Coronavirus: drones used to enforce lockdown pose a real threat to our civil liberties', The Conversation, 26 May. Available at: https://strathprints.strath.ac.uk/79865/

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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