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Invigilator drones used to snoop out Chinese exam cheats

Wed 3 Jun 2015

Education authorities in the Chinese city of Luoyang have introduced an invigilating drone [Chinese] into the exam room, monitoring teenagers taking the two-day ‘gaokao’ assessment.

The anti-cheating bots have been designed to scupper some of the inventive and high-tech tricks used by an increasing number of students in the region, such as paper scanning glasses, bugged stationary and receiving radio feeds of the test answers via hidden earpieces or transmitters sewn into clothing.

The new drone, created by a Chengdu-based tech firm, is designed to pick up on the radio signals given off by such transmitters – inaudible to human invigilators. If a transmission is detected, the machine identifies the source location and plots it on a tablet device. The tablet is also used to issue directional commands to the six-propeller drone which can travel up to 500 metres high and rotate 360 degrees to scan an entire room.

The UAV was first tested last Friday, before the exams begin on 7th June. “Even though this looks a lot like the drones people are now playing with, it’s actually much safer and more stable,” said Bai Yujun, an engineer from the surveillance drone company. “It can stay in the air for half an hour, withstand strong winds, and has an ‘auto landing’ function for special circumstances,” he explained.

Students undertaking the gaokao, China’s highly-competitive and gruelling University entrance exams, have been known to make extreme efforts to cheat the system. There is a large industry in China for hiring smarter students to sit an exam for you. In an attempt to prevent replacements entering the exam halls, officials have started to use fingerprint scanners to confirm the identity of a student. However, even mimicking fingerprint film is available to buy online to get around this ‘hurdle.’

Teens caught cheating are usually suspended from taking the exam for three years. Those found to have supported the fraudster such as parents, teachers, friends or any other third party risk facing criminal charges.

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