Alameda City Council Greenlights Controversial Police Drones and Natel Energy Expansion

Council Approves APD Drones Amid Heated Debate

In a marathon meeting that stretched into the early morning hours, the Alameda City Council authorized the purchase of drones for the Alameda Department (APD) and approved a policy governing their use. According to The Alameda Post, the decision came after a contentious debate, with supporters arguing the drones would improve safety and quality of life, while opponents expressed fears of unwarranted surveillance and civil rights violations.

APD Chief Nishant Joshi emphasized that the drones would only be used by trained operators with supervisor approval for specific situations like life preservation, high-risk felony crimes, sideshows, and disaster response. The policy prohibits weaponization, facial recognition, random surveillance, and targeting based on personal characteristics.

Natel Energy Gets Go-Ahead for Alameda Point Expansion

The Council also approved a permit allowing Natel Energy, a climate technology company, to expand its research and development facility at Alameda Point. Natel designs fish-safe hydraulic turbines for hydropower and sought to add a 25-foot tall hydraulic test facility.

Some councilmembers raised concerns about the expansion, arguing it was incompatible with the nearby Spirits Alley due to view blockage and potential noise and vibration impacts on the endangered Least Tern colony. However, city staff rebutted these claims, noting the views in question are not part of any city-adopted view corridor.

Public comment was largely in favor of Natel's permit, with supporters saying the company brings investment, jobs, and aligns with Alameda's values. However, the co-owner of neighboring Building 43 Winery objected, arguing Natel's “industrial junk” ruins their views and lease value.

DroneXL's Take

The Alameda City Council's approval of and Natel Energy's expansion reflects the challenging balance cities must strike between public safety, environmental innovation, and quality of life concerns.

While the use of drones by law enforcement remains controversial, the APD's policy includes important safeguards against misuse. When used properly and with robust oversight, drones can be a valuable tool for enhancing public safety and emergency response.

Natel Energy's fish-safe turbine technology represents the kind of innovative clean energy solutions needed to combat climate change. By facilitating their research and development, Alameda is positioning itself as a hub for green tech startups. Cities that create a welcoming environment for such companies will reap economic and environmental benefits in the long run.

That said, the concerns of neighboring businesses like Building 43 Winery are valid and warrant consideration. Cities should strive to balance the needs of different stakeholders and ensure transparent communication about plans that may impact existing tenants. Creative solutions like designated view corridors and noise mitigation measures can help address these issues.

Ultimately, fostering a diverse local economy that includes both light industrial innovators and artisan producers will make Alameda a more vibrant and resilient community. With thoughtful planning and open dialogue, the city can chart a path forward that benefits all.

Photo courtesy of Axon.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ or @hayekesteloo.

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