Drone crashes into Virginia bull run crowd

Online forums suggest that there were actually three different operators flying at the recent Virginia Bull Run incident. Among them Digital Thunderdome, who apparently were not flying the aircraft involved in the incident, but another lifting a Red Epic.

Flight over crowds should never occur and cannot be considered safe practice.

Earlier this year whilst filming in London for the UK version of the X Factor TV show a similar incident took place and was subject to a CAA safety notice.  Unlike the UK, Europe, Canada and Australia the USA does not have regulations or safety systems in place for commercial civil UA operations. According to an FAA representative speaking to Patrick Egan of sUAS News at the recent AUVSI conference, rules are due for public release and comment before 2013 is out.

A lack of training and understanding of complex systems is clearly demonstrated in the Bull Run incident and clearly the organizers of the event did not undertake due diligence and discover if what they were permitting was legal.

It has made enough of a wave to attract the attention of the Washington Post no less.

By Martin Weil of the Washington Post

An aerial drone, a pilotless aircraft of the type that has aroused intense public discussion in recent months, crashed Saturday into the stands at a public event in Virginia that has also aroused heated discourse.

A drone crashed into the grandstand at Virginia Motorsports Park during the Great Bull Run, said Major W.B. Knott, of the Dinwiddie County sheriff’s office, reporting what might be described as the dramatic encounter between a controversial piece of hardware and a controversial spectacle.

Knott said he was told that four or five people suffered very minor injuries. They were treated by EMS personnel at the event, and none was taken to a hospital, Knott said.

The bull run was billed as a daylong festival featuring bands, drinking, games and a tomato fight. The highlight was to be four scheduled bull runs in which participants were to try to elude or outrace 24 hefty specimens of male livestock.

Animal rights organizations have contended that the event endangered both people and bovines.

A Richmond area television station, WTVR-Channel 6, said the drone was being used to capture video of the event.

In video posted on the station’s website, the drone was seen hovering above the stands. It appeared to be about four feet in diameter and reminiscent of a spider, with numerous appendages projecting from a central core. Then, it suddenly dipped and fell into the midst of about a dozen spectators. Others rushed toward the place where it came down. One picked it up and put it aside.


Cover photo by Dave Parrish