Russia’s National Guard has added a steampunk vibe to the coronavirus dystopia as it launched a blimp to monitor how the lockdown is being observed in Moscow Region. Not everyone was impressed, though.
Equipped with the OKO (“eye”) surveillance system, the air balloon was deployed to hover several hundred meters above the ground, allowing servicemen to observe an area of around five square kilometers.
The blimp’s prime task is to monitor the park and forest areas during the quarantine. Data gathered by the OKO system is transferred to patrols on the ground in real time, who are then dispatched to disperse or fine the violators.
Far from impressing the isolation-weary Russians, the initiative has received quite mixed reviews on social media. Some found the technology not “advanced” enough, wondering why the force doesn’t pour its funding into shiny new drones instead.
Russians – especially Muscovites – strongly associate blimps with the World War II era, when aerostats were used as air defenses against Luftwaffe sorties. To be fair, the National Guard does have quadcopters in service – it’s just that their battery life is too short, while the blimps can stay up in the sky and keep “watching” much longer.
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But the prospect of an all-seeing “eye” surveying them from above did not sit well with the locals, many of whom inevitably drew parallels to Big Brother from George Orwell’s ‘1984.’
Some particularly wondered why the forest – the last place where you would expect to get Covid-19 – should be surveyed at all. The Russian authorities however insist they have reasons to survey the parks: more than a thousand people were caught dodging the lockdown regime at picnics and barbecues in and outside the capital during the May Day holiday alone.
Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, more than 26,000 people were infected and some 262 have died in Moscow Region. This is the second-largest Covid-19 hotspot in Russia after Moscow, where the number of infections could soon surpass 140,000.