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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 Amazon.com 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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