Fox CT Investigates: FAA looking into possible illegal use of drones at Hartford crash scene

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The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed to FOX CT News Thursday they are investigating the use of a drone at a Hartford fatal crash scene Saturday.

Questions about officer safety and public privacy are emerging now after the drone was spotted above a fatal car crash on Main Street.

FOX CT was the only media organization to obtain the official Hartford Police Department incident report Thursday, detailing the chain of events.

According to the report, officers spotted a drone flying over the scene of the crash, in which the bodies were still in the car.

Police Lt. Brian Foley told FOX CT that drones present concerns regarding privacy and officer safety.

Drones, which are also known as “unmanned aircraft systems,” are seeing an uptick in popularity as they’re used by the U.S. government and are even the subject of plans by online retailer for use shipping products.

But now, the drone controversy emerging in Hartford has the FAA on alert because its use may have been illegal.

The police report says that on Saturday Feb. 1, officers spotted the drone overhead with an attached camera.

Police say they questioned the man operating the drone, but no arrest was made.

On Thursday, Hartford Police referred FOX CT News to the FAA for comment.

The FAA declined to comment but did confirm it has launched an investigation.

“Drones, not being helicopters, they’re much smaller, can have access to aerial places that traditional helicopters and airplanes do not,” says Hartford Attorney Corey Brinson.

Brinson, who grew up in Hartford and works in the Capital City now as a lawyer, says he’s also concerned about possible privacy violations stemming from drone use at crime and crash scenes.

“How do we balance this new technology? Do we allow more of an intrusion into more traditional private moments like a tragic car accident? Or do we say, ‘Well, this is a new technology and the public is going to have to adapt?’ ” says Brinson.

The police report says that in this case, the victim’s body was not visible but that “that may not always be the case.”

According to FAA regulations, drones cannot be operated for commercial use and according to Hartford Police, “The presence of a drone at a crime scene for journalistic purposes is in violation of FAA regulations.”

“These drones will be able to broadcast live from active shooters or SWAT team tactical units. … (It’s) very, very concerning to law enforcement because it could give the bad guys an upper hand,” says Brinson.

The FAA told FOX CT Friday that more time will be needed before additional details on the investigation are released.

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  • MadCharles

    Someone has to keep an eye on these thugs. All law enforcement have become militarized, more weapons are in the hands of hacks like the EPA, all are more dangerous than ever before. The country has gone to crap for the citizenry.
    Not the America I fought for.

  • bjs

    Drones are the catch phrase of the day but remote controlled airplanes and helicopters have been around for years. How do the two groups differ in their abilities and restrictions? Can a licensed remote controlled helicopter do the same type of surveillance as "drones" are reported to be doing now? It seems like all this uproar of drones may already be covered under existing laws and restrictions of sport aircraft and such limitations should be applied as written now.

    • Max

      I often feel that the whole drone uproar is being pushed by very confused people who think it's an invasion of privacy some how. I often wonder what they think about Google earth, or helicopters.

  • Pearson de Truth

    Oh, NOW they are concerned about privacy huh? Who's the cops or the dead? Or is the real reason they don't want the public to use drones so THEY can't cover up what actually happens at a crime scene (not particularly this one). Well isn't that interesting. So, America is broke, yet the NSA has an $800 Million dollar spy center in Utah built called "bumblehive" so THEY can spy on American citizens through their land line phone, cel phone, email, red light cameras, speeding cameras, etc………while Americans starve & freeze in the cities of America.
    Then in 2015 all cars will require by law a black box installed? Not to spy on you of course not!!!!
    And they are NOW concerned about privacy? All of this is on purpose people, they have been building the New World Odor for quite some time now and almost complete. Why is it written on the back of the dollar bill in Latin? Novus Ordo Seclorum. It's time to wake the flock up people, all of this stuff is in the bible. Investigate the truth and the truth will set you free. TIJ Trust in Jesus.

    • Max

      Just about ever single car made since 1996 has a black box, sorry you missed that one, the law will only make it standard for all car. It's literally useless unless you get in a car accident.

  • Sheik Mabouti

    Interesting to ponder how drones will be able to cause accidents in the future… Government enemy on a lonely stretch of road – oops – there was an accident…


    Maybe, a Mother Drone can go down to MEXICO, and DESTROY ALL THE COWARD MURDERERS…..WHO FLEE DOWN TO YOUR SHITBOX AND HIDE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ray

    The cops are confusing (either on purpose or through ignorance) normal radio controlled model planes or helicopters with a true drone.
    They say they they questioned the man who was flying the craft in question. Which means he was within visual distance to control the "drone."
    With typical RC model planes, you have to be able to physically see it in order to control it.
    A drone is usually flown from a remote location through the use of an on board camera or a software program.

    As long as the model aircraft is kept below 400 feet above ground level, flown a sufficient distance from populated areas and full scale aircraft, and not for business purposes, the FAA has no jurisdiction in the matter.

  • comanchepilot

    Lets go through this logically. . .

    1. Privacy – sorry – public place. A public street. No expectation of privacy. Are there concerns with voyeurism etc Sure – but there are ALREADY laws against peeping in people’s windows – if you enforce those laws you don’t need to worry about this.

    2. Police Safety – ah yes – the old bugaboo of police safety. Trotted out any time the police don’t like when someone other than them is watching. Tough – you are paid with tax dollars and its ok to watch you, warn people about you, tape you, record you and everything else. Police ‘tactics’ are so well known by criminals and, oh my god I can’t believe I’m mentioning the word, terrorists, that its a joke.

    3. Flight rules. Was it an aircraft within the meaning the of FAA regulations? Yes or no. If no – end of story. They’ve know about privately owned drones for 5 years now and have not amended their regulations to include unmanned aerial vehicles while excluding model airplanes flown by hobbyists? I’d hate to see a 4 year old flying a rubber powered balsa glider in his back yard somehow run afoul of the new regulations –

    But now lets assume we have a Yes to the aircraft question – was this drone inside controlled airspace – meaning airspace where a pilot is required to be in radio contact?

    There is no requirement that an airplane have a radio to operate at Brainard – so no violation there. Is it inside Bradley’s airspace? Nope -= not at that altitude and location – so – we have an aircraft that is not required to be in radio contact with anyone. Perfectly legal under current rules.

    Government can whine all it wants but until it changes the existing rules to give it jurisdiction over these things using weasel words like ‘may have violated’ is press release language designed to soothe the sheeple. . . .

  • Billy

    Drone, drone, drone…

    Was this not a quadcopter?

    The US military uses Predator "drones" and they're planes. If we're talking about quadcopters or some other multirotor craft then say so. The word "drone" is too ambiguous and seemingly pejorative.

  • David

    "Police Lt. Brian Foley told FOX CT that drones present concerns regarding privacy and officer safety." –Only when they aren't operated by police..

  • dwchu

    Though it's not addressed in the article, could the drone have been flying in the area before the accident, then arrived on the scene because it was already close by? That raises the question, if it was in the air, could it have been the cause of the accident if it distracted the driver?

  • zamzummim

    I am so glad you are here. Please pray for me as I may not make it.
    "I am a drone, I simply want to video you for youtube and the theives who steal your wallet after you pass away"

  • S. E.

    The police in the U.S NEED watching ! If those ‘fatalities’ weren’t actually dead, I bet one of those vermin (aka police “officers”) would have used a gun or taser on them – just to make sure ! It’s a case of how much of this one sided dick- tatorship from Shitbama and his homo butt buddies of the NWO will you people put up with ?

  • Reader11722

    Drone wars, yet another violation of our rights. The gov’t constantly violates our rights.

    They violate the 1st Amendment by caging protesters and banning books like "America Deceived II".

    They violate the 4th and 5th Amendment by allowing TSA to grope you.

    They violate the entire Constitution by starting undeclared wars.

    Impeach Obama.

    Last link of "America Deceived II" before it is completely banned:

  • Doctor D

    I think I may have read something in regard to the fact that reflected light from the assigned "drone" flashed in the eyes of the "suspicious" driver of the vehicle causing the fatal crash, but I am uncertain as to whether or not that presumed allegation made it into the "official" report, as was witnessed by the drone, while it was performing its reconnaissance duties and searching for suspected criminals and terrorists, whether that suspicion was founded or unfounded, foreign or domestic, as validated via the Patriot Act and supplemented via the National Defense Authorization Act.

  • Reason

    So if your in a tall building and see it out the window should you poke your eyes out? Should we ground all the local news helos in the country? What's the difference? Get a life cops, do your damn job right and forget about the cameras.

  • Bob Baker

    Who said is was for commercial purposes? Who said the operator was a jounalist? Supreme Courts has already ruled that video and photos taken is public is perfectly legal.

  • Mike Litoris

    "Police Lt. Brian Foley told FOX CT that drones present concerns regarding privacy"

    It's a public space, there is no expectation of privacy.

  • AdrianaG

    Think of a drone photographing that hot babe sunbathing nude in her back yard ;). Then again, Atlanta residents could have used drone delivered PortaJohnnys on I-75 last week during the SnowMageddon!

  • Only the Government

    "Police Lt. Brian Foley told FOX CT that drones present concerns regarding privacy and officer safety."

    Funny, the police and other government entities take citizens' objections to government use of the same technology as subversive assaults on their beneficent authority. They then acquire more such technology to "protect" against hoi polloi. The public must be observed and controlled.

  • Joe

    This is sensationalism. Pure and simple. It's not illegal. The FAA suggests not to use them for Commercial activity though no actual law exists!!! Don't buy into the fear mongering of someone taking photos of something that IS normally photographed. No laws were broken here.

    • Macranthunter

      Exactly. Drones are extremely legal for commercial use. They are not yet regulated. Were commercial drones illegal, MTV wouldn't have the X-Games. Quadrotors with cameras are legal, affordable and frankly a blast.

  • GeneRook

    Drones (unmanned machines) will, are, and have been a tool to wage war, find truths, and take lives. I find it very unusual that the government and private industry wants Congress to allow unrestricted use for "their interests" while chocking out the Media, private ownership, or small business usage.

    This is yet another technology, like the internet, that the benefactors will seek legal restrictions on public and or media's use in an attempt to "seek the truth".

    Unfortunately for them, Drone technology can be easily manufactured and/or duplicated and the market will drive international sources to provide the tech for anyone who has the money, no differently than value of drugs drives 130 old drug war and entwines governments, politicians, international terrorists, hoods, gangs, dealers, and users. (money always speaks louder than words)

    Soon, we the public will have our first case in the Federal Courts, likely involving and high ranking political figure who has committed atrocities against the people, this information will have been acquired by "drone technology" and it will lead to a legislation that "prohibits drone use by the public at large" or its the legal value of data obtained (unless by a government agency) (double standards) no different than so many technologies of the past and we will have more "Wiki Leaks" that will start the next great conflict of our generation.

  • Dennis Johnson

    People, they have had RC planes for decades, "drones are just modern incarnations af something old, I swear the media must think we are absououte maroons to keep fanning hysteria over small aircraft with cameras operated by a ….wait for it……PERSON!

  • THX1138

    The remote control aircraft in question most likely flew in and out of uncontrolled airspace. If they can regulate this then they can restrict or ban ALL remote control model aircraft…

    So whichever News org posts the "illicit" video is the violator…OFF with their heads (sarc,humor)…it's not like police are public servants or anything like that answerable to the People…drones for me but not for thee…gun control, drone control, information control, free speech zones…