Geneva approves $58K for two new aerial drones for police, public works

Geneva Police Department vehicle

The Geneva City Council on Nov. 20 approved a $58,654 purchase of two X10 Unmanned Aerial Systems drones for the police and public works departments to use.

The drones were included in the 2023 budget and will be bought from Skydio, Inc. through a GSA contract, according to documents.

“How we envision (using the drone) is limited circumstances where we have special events, missing persons, things of that nature. Water rescues in the river,” Geneva Deputy Police Chief Matthew Dean said.

State statutes limit drone use, Dean said.

“The statute also says clearly that the drone cannot be weaponized,” Dean said. “They cannot be used in any sort of facial recognition software.”

“Over the last month, we’ve had two instances where we had missing juveniles in town and we used drones from a neighboring jurisdiction who were able to come in and help us,” Geneva Police Chief Eric Passarelli said. “It’s a great tool and the statute is vey restrictive.”

Passarelli said police must provide an annual drone report and ensure its drone policy is accessible on the city’s website.

“If we violate it, the attorney general can come after me,” Passarelli said.

Public Works Director Rich Babica said the drone will be outfitted with an infrared camera along with other specialized equipment to assist with Geneva Public Works projects.

“It is a labor-saving device for public works,” Babica said. “The driving force with this drone was to do aerial and ground survey of the transformers for our electric utility. This is an opportunity saver. This is a labor saver.”

Alderperson Anaïs Bowring voted for the purchase, but requested the City Council discuss implementing policies about new technologies before buying them.