Fox CT Investigation Update: FAA looks into drone use at fatal crash scene

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In this  follow-up to a Fox Connecticut exclusive report from Thursday night, that has since made national headlines, the FAA has clarified their standing on drones to Fox CT.

The feds are investigating the possible illegal use of a video-camera drone at a fatal car crash in Hartford.

The issue is now raising questions about whether it is legal for the public to operate drones.

Once reserved for the military, drones can now be purchased online for about $1000, which means they’re becoming more and more common on city streets.

It was on the 2000 block of Main Street in Hartford Saturday, when officers spotted a camera-equipped-drone above a fatal car-crash and filed a report, interviewing the operator, who was not arrested.But the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed to Fox CT Thursday, they are investigating the incident.

In an email sent to Fox CT News Friday, an FAA spokesman said, “The FAA currently does not allow commercial operations, including videography, using an unmanned aircraft (‘drone’)”.

But Branford “drone expert” and volunteer firefighter, Peter Sachs, who runs the website www.dronelawjournal.com, and who used his personal drone to help firefighters last month, takes issue with the FAA’s statement.

Berman: “The FAA sent me an email today saying that it’s illegal.”

Sachs:  “With all due respect to the FAA, the FAA is lying.”

Berman:  “The Federal Government’s lying in this case you believe?”

Sachs: “The FAA is absolutely lying. They can’t point to a single statute, regulation or piece of case law, that supports their claim that it is in fact illegal.”

Hartford Police told Fox CT on Thursday, that drones can present concerns involving both officers safety and victim’s privacy.

The police report lists the drone operator as 29 year old WFSB Television photographer, Pedro Rivera.

The news station’s Vice President and General Manager, Klarn DePalma, released a statement today to Connecticut’s Newsroom.

“The person identified in the police report is a temporary, on-call employee of WFSB. However, he was not working for the station on the day of the incident. He was not assigned to shoot video of the crime scene by WFSB and has never been compensated for any drone video,” said DePalma.

In the police report, the officer says, “Rivera did tell me he feeds the video back to WFSB”.

New York Attorney, Brendan Schulman, specializes in drone laws.

“It is not clear whether this civilian drone flight was commercial or not.  As we have argued in a pending case, the so-called “ban” on commercial drone use is based on an un-enforceable FAA policy statement,” said Schulman.

Back in Branford, Sachs believes the police department’s investigation into the operator, could provide grounds for a lawsuit.

“…What the Hartford Police Department has done in approaching him and approaching his employer, is basically cause a chilling effect on freedom of speech”, says Sachs.

An email to the Hartford Police Department was not returned prior to news time.

The FAA told Fox CT Friday, that more time is needed before any further details of the investigation can be released.

The FAA did send us a link with details on their drone policies, which can be found here:

http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ato/service_units/systemops/aaim/organizations/uas/coa/faq/

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6 comments

  • usJim

    If any laws had been broken by the DRONE OPERATOR then the Hartford Police should have issued a summons for same and NOT expressed grief over the presence of a quad-copter (the so-called 'drone').

    Drone, definition:
    1. make a continuous low humming sound.
    2. a low continuous humming sound.
    3. a male bee in a colony

    Nowhere does it mention "quad copter" or unmanned aerial vehicle.

    _Jim

  • Ben Dover

    When government invades YOUR privacy and fires on you using drones, it's OK.

    When you do it, now they have issues over privacy concerns and officer safety.

    SHOW US ANY LAWS THAT WERE BROKEN BY FLYING HIS DRONE….NONE.

    Now go and make up some nonsense to put the man in jail indefinitely without charges to set an example.

    Facist swine.

  • Gumby

    FoxCT's "journalism" staff cares only about hammering WFSB. They can't even interpret the FAA regs for themselves, throwing a link up to leave it to the reader to figure it all out.

    And that's what local TV news is all about: ugly fluff produced by zombies for idiots.