The sky’s the limit for Jackson County public safety officials


During a recent flood in Jackson County, drones assisted the Department of Natural Resources in providing a 360-degree view of a breach in the Green Island levee. When serving search warrants, drones provide an aerial image of the situation, allowing teams to identify potential hazards prior to entering a structure. And in search-and-rescue situations, drones equipped with infrared technology give an inside look to guide public safety workers to individuals in danger. 

This technology has become an essential tool for public safety workers, and thanks to a Community Foundation of Jackson County grant, its use has expanded. With this grant support, the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency and Sheriff’s Department were able to purchase a fleet of drones in 2021. Since then, there have been 17 flight requests and counting. 

“Drones can easily reach places that many humans cannot. They can save lives, support law enforcement and contribute to safe infrastructure maintenance and management,” says Jackson County Sheriff Brent Kilburg. “The emerging technology provides new ways for law enforcement officers to protect and serve communities, gather critical intelligence, survey potentially hazardous situations and solve crimes faster without putting personnel in harm’s way.”

Jackson County is known for its miles of farm fields, densely wooded areas, and hilly and rocky terrain. The Maquoketa River, Maquoketa Caves and Mississippi River bring many tourists to the area. The Sheriff’s Office patrols 648 square miles — about half the area of Yosemite National Park — of the county and is the chief law enforcement for the cities of Andrew, Baldwin, La Motte, Monmouth, St Donatus, and Zwingle. “The type of land Jackson County presents is hard to manage on foot,” says Killburg. “Drones assist with many tasks on the hilly land, as well as in the water. An unmanned aircraft is easy to deploy and obtain information quickly on what resources need to be utilized.”

Following a three-day training, eight area fire fighters and members of the sheriff’s department earned their Pilot 107 licenses and continue biennial training to keep up with best practices and emerging technology. Since the grant was awarded, a fourth, palm-sized drone has been added to the fleet to increase officer safety and awareness when clearing a building. 

For the Community Foundation, supporting public safety was an easy decision, given its mission of strengthening communities.

“We use our grantmaking capacity to improve quality of life,” says Lori Loch, executive director. “The safety of area residents and support of local law enforcement and emergency services are essential in order for any of us to live in, work in, play in or visit Jackson County.” 

To learn more about how you can apply for a grant, establish a fund or make a gift that impacts your community, contact Lori Loch at 563-588-2700.