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China’s traffic police drones over Mid-Autumn Festival ensure sky’s the limit for long arm of the law

Traffic police in one Chinese province flew two drones to monitor traffic during the rush-hour on the last day of the Mid-Autumn Festival and identify more than 90 motorists suspected of breaking traffic laws.

The drones helped to check traffic flows and identify possible culprits along two Sichuan highways – one connecting the cities of Chengdu and Zigong, and the other linking Chengdu with Mianyang – on Saturday afternoon as the roads were packed with motorists returning at the end of the public holiday.

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They were able to reach speeds of up to 100km/h, fly within a radius of 15km and complete a 30km round trip in 40 minutes, news website Scol.com.cn quoted the provincial public security department as saying.

The drones can identify vehicle number plates from up to 100 metres away.

“Road traffic inspection using the drones allows video images to be transmitted back in real time and helps traffic police to know what’s happening with the traffic and take efficient measures,” the report said.

The drones’ activity was also broadcast live on the provincial traffic police’s official Weibo account.

In future live online broadcasts of law enforcement activities combined with police car patrols and drone flights will be a regular part of road traffic management to encourage motorists to obey the law.

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The province mobilised 12,600 traffic police and 4,000 police cars on each of the holiday’s three days to watch for violations such as speeding, overloaded vehicles, and passengers not wearing seat belts.

There were no reports of traffic accidents leading to the deaths of more than three people, or traffic jams causing long hold-ups.

Drones have become increasingly popular with China’s law enforcement officials to help them carry out inspections when manpower levels are limited.

The Urban Management Bureau in Nanjing’s Xuanwu district bought nine drones in April to inspect a construction site, which was considered too large and complicated for urban management staff on patrol.

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Images provided by the drones confirmed construction waste had been piled up only 30 metres from railway tracks, and also proved useful for collecting evidence of illegal construction in high-rise buildings, the Modern Express reported.

Last month urban patrol staff in Xingtai, in Hebei province, also used drones to carry inspections in areas that had previously been impossible to check, news website Cqnews.com reported.