Old 05-17-2020, 02:20 PM   #1
KevinM
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Folks,

In the past, I've expressed my disdain for some of the dumb things I've seen done by morons with drones. I hesitate to call them "pilots" because that term would give them too much credit. I suspect you saw the video a couple of years back by the railfan who used his drone to chase a UP freight, doing aerobatics over the train, weaving in and out of open box cars and even doing close fly-bys near the locomotive cabs. At the end of the video, the kid....yeah, he was a stupid kid...even takes a bow, as if we should all applaud his reckless display.

This week, I saw a video that really made me quite angry. I'm sure many of you have seen clips on the news of Operation America Strong. America's two military air demonstration teams, the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels have been performing fly-overs of hospitals in major cities as a salute to the healthcare workers who have been putting their lives on the line to save thousands of very sick people. On Thursday, the Blue Angels conducted such a fly-over in Detroit, and some clown with a drone decided he was going to one-up everybody and get a close-up of the team, as it passed over the city. He posted the resulting video on several social media sites, with his name all over it, and apparently, even made remarks on line to the effect that he "probably" violated some Federal Air Regulations.

Although the original video has been taken down, it is now all over the internet. Any claims the guy puts forward regarding copyright likely won't hold up as the video clearly depicts the commission of a crime.

Here is the video. Although he should not have been flying at all, the first couple of passes are not what makes me angry. It's the last one.

To the video

I guess this shows how brainless some of these people are. I suspect it never occurred to this moron, who probably got within 100 ft. of the formation, how little margin there was between his drone and a major calamity. If one of these jets had taken that drone down an engine inlet, it could have caused, at the very least, a major emergency for the pilot involved. If he had taken it in the canopy, it could have been far worse. The team was flying at 1,200 ft. over a VERY built-up area, doing over 300 knots. Simply ejecting would not be an option for the pilot. He knows that wherever the jet goes, it will be bad. These guys will die to protect the crowd.

The Thunderbirds and Blue Angels virtually always fly in a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR).....sterile airspace. They have to. Their focus on their flying has to be total and they can't be worrying about non-participant aircraft in the way. In the pass you see in the video, Boss Kesselring (the Flight Lead) is the only one who can scan for traffic. The 5 wingmen are totally focused on maintaining precise position with respect to the leader's jet. Yes, there were also chase planes flying with them to clear for traffic and take photos, but at 300 knots+, none of these guys are going to see that drone in time to avoid it. In the formation, they can't maneuver abruptly.....at all.

At a minimum, this guy was guilty of:

-Violating a Temporary Flight Restriction

-Flying above 400 AGL

-Failure to give way to manned aircraft

-Careless and reckless operation

-I don't have a Detroit TAC chart in front of me, but he probably busted the Detroit Class B as well.

FAA and the Navy are onto this guy. The case against him is pretty open and shut. Federal regulations specify a civil penalty of up to $27,500 and criminal penalties of up to $250,000. I think the latter clearly applies here. I sincerely hope that the Feds throw the book at this guy and "hang" him from the highest yard-arm, with coverage on the evening news. Something must be done to put a stop to this nonsense. Those of you who own and fly these things responsibly should wholeheartedly support such a move. As one military aviator recently posted on his YouTube channel: "One guy poops himself and everybody is now going to have to wear diapers."
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Old 05-17-2020, 07:59 PM   #2
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Reminds me of the guy who was doing aerobatics over a Frontier A320 on final to KLAS a couple years back. I don't believe they ever caught the idiot either.

As the saying goes, "this is why we can't have nice things."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OQVJQAu3ug
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Old 05-18-2020, 04:53 AM   #3
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Like everything in life today - someone had to do it to get the ball rolling on future preventative measures.

Personally, I think drones are like guns - there's only so much of something people have a right to until you reach insanity. Don't get me wrong - I'm all for the rights of drones and gun owners, but within limits.

Don't know why a hobbyist drone needs to be able to go quite so high - but like guns, there will always be someone with a workaround to legal restrictions. At the least, however, it'll be harder for dumb people to do dumb things.

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Old 05-18-2020, 01:57 PM   #4
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I hope he feels every negative effect possible for his act of stupidity. I was going to congratulate him on social media, but all of his accounts are closed now. I guess he wasn't ready for all the attention.

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Old 05-18-2020, 06:23 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mgoldman View Post
Like everything in life today - someone had to do it to get the ball rolling on future preventative measures.

Personally, I think drones are like guns - there's only so much of something people have a right to until you reach insanity. Don't get me wrong - I'm all for the rights of drones and gun owners, but within limits.
/Mitch
I think that there needs to be at least some limits on everything. Experience tends to show that when a greater percentage of the population gets their hands on a potentially dangerous technology, we will have problems. Just look at the combination of cars and cell phones. The less control we have on access, and the less we punish the offenders, the more dangerous things get.

Remotely piloted aircraft have been around for a very long time. When I was a kid, RC models were the pinnacle. The great thing about those was that like manned aircraft, they required a pretty high degree of skill to operate. People with more money than brains were dissuaded from buying these machines, because they didn't have the patience to learn to fly one properly, and without training and supervision, they'd likely trash their investment before they got past the departure end of the runway. Local RC clubs policed the sport very well. If you had a reputation as a rogue, you just didn't get training. Although they were not certificated by FAA, RC pilots really were "pilots."

The current generation of RPAs.....what the public calls "drones" no longer require much in the way of flying skill to operate. Anyone with a few hundred bucks can wander down to Best Buy and get one. No tests, no certificate.....no hoops to jump. The thing is.....they still require AIRMANSHIP to operate safely. Airmanship is a unique combination of knowledges of the man, the machine and the environment, coupled with judgment and attention to detail. While there is no way to guarantee that even with training, someone will become a good airman, a formal training program, and the requirement to EARN the credentials to act as pilot really does help. And as a safeguard, there also needs to be a set of rules and serious consequences for violating those rules. The cat may be out of the bag with respect to requiring training, but in my mind we can still keep things from getting out of control by sending a clear message that the authorities are watching, and they are not going to condone the kind of reckless behavior we see in this video.
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Old 07-07-2020, 09:25 PM   #6
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The FAA quickly located the guy who posted the video, but nearly two months after the incident, I can find no evidence of charges being levied. As much publicity as this incident received, the FAA would have gotten much better bang for the buck by filing charges/fines and sorting out the mess later in order to ride the wave of publicity and show how seriously such acts are taken. I believe the guy denied he was the one operating the drone, so maybe things bogged down there.

Couple of points, though, as to what they might have charged him with. I think reckless operation and failure to yield to a manned aircraft are the two most likely ones (I'll go point by point through the original poster's bullets in a minute). The Blue Angels did deviate from their published path in a number of locations, and a possible defense could be that he was surprised by the approach of the aircraft. In such events, it's still the responsibility of the operator to ensure the UAS doesn't interfere with manned aircraft. But, this angle could take it out of willful misconduct and perhaps mitigate the reckless operation charge.

As for the other points raised above - it appears from the video, and I confirmed with a friend in Detroit, that this appears to have been over downtown Detroit:

-Violating a Temporary Flight Restriction
There were no TFRs in place for this event.

-Flying above 400' AGL
If the operator was an FAA Part 107 certificate holder (many drone operators are), depending on the circumstance, he could have been over 1000' AGL without needing authorization.

- He probably busted the Detroit Class B as well.
Downtown Detroit below 700' AGL is Class G (uncontrolled airspace) and above 700' is Class E, which for drone operations doesn't need FAA authorization.
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Old 07-08-2020, 01:12 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnJ View Post
As for the other points raised above - it appears from the video, and I confirmed with a friend in Detroit, that this appears to have been over downtown Detroit:

-Violating a Temporary Flight Restriction
There were no TFRs in place for this event.
Fair enough. It surprises me a bit though. The demo teams typically get TFRs, even for flyovers, arrival maneuvers, etc. just to ensure that they won't be interfered with in terms of being able to make their time over target, and so the flight lead is able to focus on the mission vs. deconflicting for traffic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnJ View Post
-Flying above 400' AGL
If the operator was an FAA Part 107 certificate holder (many drone operators are), depending on the circumstance, he could have been over 1000' AGL without needing authorization.
Given the egregious nature of the offense, I'm willing to bet that this clown didn't hold any kind of pilot certificate. I assume you're rated and if so, you're well aware that doing something dumb with a drone could result in actions against all of the certificates and ratings we hold. People like this idiot don't worry about those things.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnJ View Post
- He probably busted the Detroit Class B as well.
Downtown Detroit below 700' AGL is Class G (uncontrolled airspace) and above 700' is Class E, which for drone operations doesn't need FAA authorization.
I haven't flown in the Detroit Class B. The Blue Angels would have been at 1,000 AGL minimum and probably 500 to 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle along the route. In order to get the shot that he did, I am betting that the guy was way above 400 AGL.
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Old 07-22-2020, 03:05 PM   #8
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Yeah, I have absolutely no idea of how the Blue Angels clear the path in front of them in an event like this. No TFR, but there was a NOTAM issued to at least warn pilots of the event. I saw the joint Blue Angels/Thunderbirds flyover of NYC from Connecticut (awesome event, BTW) and that covered an enormous area, and one that has a ton of general aviation traffic. Somehow it all worked out.
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Old 07-22-2020, 05:28 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnJ View Post
Yeah, I have absolutely no idea of how the Blue Angels clear the path in front of them in an event like this. No TFR, but there was a NOTAM issued to at least warn pilots of the event. I saw the joint Blue Angels/Thunderbirds flyover of NYC from Connecticut (awesome event, BTW) and that covered an enormous area, and one that has a ton of general aviation traffic. Somehow it all worked out.
Without a TFR, it is very likely done by working with the applicable approach control so that there is an ATC Specialist assigned and dedicated to supporting the operation by providing advisories on a discrete frequency. They would need that anyway, because after each fly-over, the teams are typically returning to a flight level in the 200s and rendezvousing with tanker support. In addition, both teams employ one or more chase aircraft for these events. The back-seaters on those airplanes are taking publicity photos, but the pilots can help clear the airspace using their fighter's radar. Of course, spotting something as small as a hobby drone without a transponder would be very problematic, but a light aircraft is something they deal with all the time. I've been intercepted during Fertile Keynote exercises a number of times by F-15s, and their pilots have told me that they regularly use their Fire Control Radar to alert them to the presence of light airplanes.
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Old 07-24-2020, 02:34 PM   #10
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These will just end up another case of everyone being punished for the stupidity and abuse of a few.
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