City of Dubuque buys drone, hopes to start flying soon - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

City of Dubuque buys drone, hopes to start flying soon

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Dubuque's City Council voted unanimously to approve $2,500 for buying a drone.

The proposal, brought forward by Craig Nowack, Dubuque's cable TV coordinator, also includes money for an iPad Air 2 to operate the drone, along with a case and a memory card.

"We wanted to get a drone, because it can provide some pretty captivating images," Nowack said. "And for all the shooting that we do around town, to be able to get that bird's eye view, literally gives you an overview of those projects."

With the Bee Branch Watershed Flood Mitigation Project in full swing, and the promise of the Southwest Arterial, they'll have plenty to shoot.

But the drone would also be shared among city agencies. Among the many uses talked about was the use of a drone to help in the case of train derailment.

The train that derailed in February near Sherrill was in an area so remote that firefighters couldn't see the scene to assess what had happened.

Instead, they had to walk up to the scene blind, not knowing what they would encounter.

"At some point when they come around the corner, they can see what the actual hazard is, and they basically back up at that point," said Dubuque Fire Chief Rick Steines. "So at that point, they're in a dangerous position, and they needed to back up. A drone could've allowed us to know exactly what that hazard would be, and where a better position would be or a better way in would've been."

It will also allow them to assess things a little closer to home, like fires or any other emergency situations that may arise in the city.

Dubuque Police say they will be able to use it too, but more as a reactive tool.

"We had a guy on a roof one time, and we didn't know if he was armed or not," Dubuque Police Chief Mark Dalsing said.  "A drone would've been able to give us that information safely."

The drone has already been bought and purchased, but won't be taken out of the box for quite some time. Nowack says they still need to figure out exactly what they need to do to get an exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration.

He says he'll be meeting with Dubuque's city attorney and airport director to start that process.

Barry Lindahl, Dubuque's city attorney, says he hopes they can get their exemption to start flying the drone in the next couple of months.

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