Donated drones to aid Grosse Pointe City in fighting crime, fires

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 9, 2024


GROSSE POINTE CITY — The Grosse Pointe Public Safety Department has a new tool to fight crime.

The department is getting two drones from Troy-based American Air Operations LLC, along with training and related equipment, at a cost of $71,980.20. However, because the City’s nonprofit Grosse Pointe City Foundation is paying for all of it, Public Safety Director John Alcorn said this equipment is coming to them at no cost to the municipality.

Alcorn said the drones can be used for everything from searching for a larceny suspect or a missing child to getting a better view of a roof or the Neff Park marina, as might be needed during a fire.

“It serves a great purpose,” City Manager Joseph Valentine said. “Perhaps more importantly, this technology is coming to the city at no cost of our own.”

Valentine said employees with the Department of Public Works will also be trained on the drone in case they need it for inspections or the like.

Alcorn said one of the drones will be kept on the roof of the Public Safety Department building and the second one will be in a patrol vehicle, so either of them can be deployed quickly whenever needed. He said one of the advantages of these drones is that they have thermal imaging capability, so they can find a person who might be trying to stay concealed from police at night.

“The bad guys have an advantage — they can hide from us,” Alcorn told the Grosse Pointe City Council during a meeting Nov. 20. “It’s a great tool. I can’t say enough about it.”

He said the drone can be controlled via cellphone.

“We can launch it from the station in real time,” Alcorn said.

The City’s drone purchase comes after the Grosse Pointe Farms Public Safety Department acquired similar equipment.

“I know they’ve had great success with theirs,” City Councilman Christopher Walsh said of the Farms.

Mayor Sheila Tomkowiak asked if this would change any ongoing costs to the department.

Alcorn responded that it wouldn’t, as the costs for training and the like were included in the purchase.

“We’re going to have everyone trained on it,” Alcorn said of the drones.

The council voted unanimously in favor of approving the purchase Nov. 20.