Americas Multirotor

St. Louis crashed-drone mystery solved when amateur photographer comes forward


By Joel Currier

ST. LOUIS • The mystery of the crashed drone found on a 30th floor balcony of the city’s tallest building has been solved, officials revealed Wednesday.

Police said the owner of the DJI Phantom 2 Quadcopter,found damaged May 5 at the One Metropolitan Square building, at 211 North Broadway, contacted officials after seeing news reports of the discovery.

The owner, from Mountain View, Calif., told police he was an amateur photographer who was visiting his mother here for her birthday and flew the drone through downtown to capture video footage of historic buildings. He said he had been using a remote control to steer it while standing atop a garage at 295 North Seventh Street. The man, 51, whose name was not revealed, told police he knew the drone had probably crashed. When he couldn’t find it, he assumed someone had found and taken it.

Police said it appeared that no intrigue or crime was involved. The damaged drone was sent home with its owner. “They didn’t find anything that he had done wrong,” said Schron Jackson, a department spokeswoman. “It was a noncriminal incident.”

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Drones such as the one that crashed sell online from about $600 to more than $1,350 and are generally equipped with a high-definition video camera. Civilians operating drones are required to keep them within sight and fly no higher than 400 feet above the ground, according to FAA regulations.

The agency bars commercial use of drones, although it has certified more than 600 public-sector entities — most of them law enforcement agencies and universities — to fly drones. The FAA also has given permission to the ConocoPhilips oil company for commercial flights off the Alaskan coast over the Arctic Ocean.

On Monday, the FAA said it was considering allowing movie and television production companies to use drones for aerial photography. The FAA’s current timetable calls for releasing proposed regulations for operating small drones — usually defined as weighing less than 55 pounds — by November. It would take at least months, and potentially years, after that to make the regulations final.

Last year, the Missouri House passed a bill to make the state a “no drone zone,” but the bill failed in the Senate. The law would have banned warrantless surveillance using manned or unmanned aircraft and would have required journalists to seek permission from property owners before using drones.

A similar House bill was introduced last August but has no scheduled hearings.

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