The Brussels-Midi police zone will deploy two drones in one of Brussels' busiest food markets, which they said would allow them to better enforce coronavirus regulations.
The police said they will use the drones to check whether all visitors to the market were wearing a face mask and respecting social distancing guidelines in the Marché des Abattoirs, in the municipality of Anderlecht.
"Together with the police, we thought that it would be useful to have a bird's-eye view of the site, in order to keep an eye on affluence and make sure there isn't any crowding," Anderlecht Mayor Fabrice Cumps told BX1.
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With merchants rolling out their stands stocked up with fresh food and produce over 10 hectares both indoors and outdoors, the market is one of the largest opened to the public in Brussels, drawing crowds from across the city to the southern municipality.
Under recent coronavirus regulations, local authorities have capped the maximum number of people allowed in at the same time to 3,200.
The drones were obtained by local authorities in an effort to support the work of the 14 police officers currently deployed on-site to enforce coronavirus rules.
"With the drones, the goal is to be able to intervene quickly if a problematic situation is detected," said Denis van den Bril, a federal police inspector. "The largest of the two drones has a 30x optical zoom lens, which we can deploy to better identify people."
"It allows us to precisely identify the people who are not respecting the sanitary regulations in order to more efficiently orient the officers on the ground," he said. "Like that, officers will be able to identify them and find them more quickly and issue a warning, or more, if necessary."
The drones have been flying over the market site for two Sundays in a row already and are set to remain in use for at least an additional weekend, following which authorities are expected to review their use in light of the sanitary situation.
The Brussels Times