County drone switches owners

A La Salle County drone has changed hands.

Connie Brooks, director of the county's Emergency Management Agency, told the county board's public safety committee Thursday her agency has given its camera-equipped drone to the sheriff's office.

Brooks explained she obtained the drone with a grant a few years ago, to gather information during disasters, but the device needs two operators and her agency only has two employees. As a result, Brooks said it would not be practical during an emergency to use the drone. Further, neither Brooks nor Deputy Director Fred Moore are licensed to fly the drone, which is now required.

Brooks said she decided to give the drone to the sheriff's office because the sheriff has a licensed drone pilot. She also wanted to keep the device in county service.

In a June story in The Times, La Salle County Sheriff Tom Templeton said his department has utilized drones a few times. Once was to search for a woman believed to be abducted by a former boyfriend near Streator; the woman later turned up in Calumet City. The drone was borrowed from a deputy sheriff, who privately owned it.

The other drone deployment was more spectacular.

Last year, an armed Jeffery Sorrentino held off police from inside his Peru home. Police were negotiating with him by phone, but the man's cellphone battery was dying. A cellphone was attached to a drone flown above the home and was lowered on a line, where Sorrentino grabbed it through a window. He eventually surrendered.