Victoria Police has admitted for the first time that’s it has been using drones to enforce its ‘stage 4’ lockdown in Melbourne.
It’s also been reported that the state made a request to use military drones, but was knocked back by the Australian Defence Force.
Premier Daniel Andrews moved Melbourne into a stricter ‘stage four’ lockdown on Sunday, 2 August, which limited exercise to one hour per day and also included an unprecedented nightly curfew from 8pm until 5am.
The state’s deputy police commissioner, Rick Nugent, said the force was using the devices to monitor public areas during the strict lockdown.
“We were getting reports … in that warmer weather period of lots of people congregating on the beaches in these populated areas,” Nugent said.
“A drone provides that capability to actually provide that without deploying all these police to all of the areas.”
Premier Andrews later appeared to confirm speculation the state had applied to use military drones, too.
“I think Victoria Police have used some of that technology,” said Premier Andrews. “They might have asked for some support that wasn’t forthcoming. I’m in no way critical of their decision to not provide that.”
Separately, other reports have emerged this week that the ADF also knocked back a request from South Australia to use military drones to monitor the Victoria-South Australia border.
Lieutenant General John Frewen told a Senate inquiry on Tuesday that there was “a very specific request around aerial surveillance support” but that “we didn’t think was the right thing for us to be supporting at the time”.
In July, Australian Aviation first reported that NSW Police were going to use drones to keep watch on the NSW-Victoria border in advance of Melbourne’s initial second ‘stage 3’ lockdown.