The “drone guy,” a young man attempting to create a home grown video with drone footage was arrested for flying a drone near the Empire State Building in NYC, the New York Times reports.
Sean Riddle was arrested last week, and became known humorously by the other inmates in the Manhattan holding cell as “the drone guy.” Riddle does not appear to be a dangerous criminal, and his drone did not actually cause any damage or harm. The criminal complaint against him, however, says that his operation of a small, Ionic 6-Axis Quadcopter drone with camera – purchased online for less than $100 – created “substantial risk of physical injury to pedestrians.”
Mr. Riddle was trying to create a video to promote a business idea, and was attempting to film a first-person view of a rapid descent to give the effect of a parachute jump. After practicing briefly in his apartment with the drone, he took it out onto the street, where he reportedly asked some nearby police officers if it was OK to fly the drone. When the police officers indicated permission, he began to fly the drone outside of 350 Fifth Avenue.
Mr. Riddle was arrested a short time later when the wind caused his drone to be stranded on the first tier of the Empire State building, and he approached a security guard for permission to retrieve the drone: the security guard summoned police. Riddle says that police reviewed his online profiles carefully and appeared to be looking for links to terrorist organizations; he spent several hours in a holding cell before being released pending trial.
The case demonstrates the danger of flying a drone without being aware of the rules, both federal and local. While the drone did not cause any damage, flying a drone in a crowd such as that always surrounding the Empire State Building is always prohibited, as is flying near obstacles or “sensitive buildings.” Drone operators should beware – as public concerns over terrorism and drones increase, law enforcement may not have a sense of humor about drones flown in public places.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
Subscribe to DroneLife here.