WCSJ Photo

WCSJ Photo

The Seneca Police Department will soon have a technologically advanced drone that Police Chief George Lamboley says will aid his department and the community with locating missing children, traffic accidents and even river boaters in trouble. Three-year full-time police officer Kelsey Kowalski will be drone operator after she completes all the FAA and education requirements.  The La Salle County Sheriff's Office operates one DJI Inspire drone as of 2019. Lamboley said he thought Grundy County had three. The best thing about the drone is that the village will not have to pay a cent to obtain it.

“Officer (Mark) Razny works on all of our grants,” Chief Lamboley said, “and because of his diligent work, we were awarded a $5,000 grant through CXS and their Community Service Grant program. He told me the drone will cost close to that amount.” Purchasing the drone is only the beginning. “This isn't a case where we'll get this drone and then use it immediately,” Lamboley continued. “Before it can be flown, the drone has to be registered by the FAA. There's also a drone class for training and educational purposes.”

Three-year, full-time police officer Kelsey Kowalski will be the drone operator after she completes all these requirements. The drone will be used when Kowalski reaches a point in the drone education class where she will need hands-on access. “Using a drone can significantly reduce the investigation time for major traffic accidents and aid us in so many other areas,” Lamboley said. “We're really pleased that we have this opportunity to add a drone to the department's resources.”

The Registering Process: There are strict regulations and laws that all Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) owners must follow in Illinois. To begin, you need to file your name and email address with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Once you receive their Certificate of Aircraft Registration and Proof of Ownership, the identification number for the drone must be displayed on the aircraft. All drones that weigh more than 0.55 pounds must be registered. You must be at least 13 years old to register and registration must be completed before the drone's first flight.

Other than the existing national laws and regulations set by the FAA, Illinois has drone laws that are solely unique to the state. While (725 ILCS 167/10) Sec. 10 prohibits the use of drones,  Sec. 15 of the law does NOT prohibit the use of a drone by a law enforcement agency. Some of these uses include: A law enforcement agency must first obtain a search warrant based on probable cause. A law enforcement agency possesses reasonable suspicion that, under particular circumstances, swift action is needed to prevent imminent harm to life; or to forestall the pending escape of a suspect or the destruction of evidence. A law enforcement agency is attempting to locate a missing person, and is not also undertaking a criminal investigation. A law enforcement agency is using a drone during a disaster or public health emergency (The use of a drone under these circumstances does not require an official declaration of a disaster or public health emergency prior to use.

What happens to the information collected by a drone?

If a law enforcement agency uses a drone under Section 15 of this Act, all information gathered by the drone must be destroyed within 30 days. A law agency supervisor can keep certain information if there is a reasonable suspicion that the information contains criminal activity evidence or it's pertinent to either an ongoing investigation or pending criminal trial.  CSX Community Service Grants assist organizations that make a strong, quantifiable impact on their greater communities. The online application for Community Service Grants is open from Jan. 1 through Dec. 15 each year. It qualifies as a state, county or municipal government entity, including law enforcement and fire rescue departments, and seeks funding to serve the needs of the community at large.