A drone malfunction caused it to veer off path


BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff

A drone used to record a wedding Saturday malfunctioned and flew into the back of a man watching the sunset outside a Front Street hotel, police reported.

John Gugerty, 50, of Glen Burnie, Md., said his shoulder blade was in pain from the drone strike but refused medical treatment, Officer Jesse Hammers reported.

“Gugerty appeared emotionally upset but had full mobility in both arms,” Hammers wrote, adding that there was no blood or cuts on the man’s back other than two minor scratches.

Gugerty asked the officer to write a report.

“I’m sore but I figure I’ll walk it off,” Gugerty said Monday, who is still in Key West.

The drone had been flying over a nearby wedding ceremony at the Westin, 245 Front St., at about 6:50 p.m. Saturday when it veered off course into Gugerty.

The drone broke apart after hitting Gugerty, witnesses told police.

An off-duty police officer witnessed part of the incident and said the drone “looked as though it had malfunctioned and flew into the direction of Gugerty,” Hammers wrote.

The drone’s owner, David Dyer, 41, of Revere, Mass., told police he was filming a wedding for a friend when the drone went haywire and hit the bystander.

“Dyer said he offered to buy Gugerty dinner from the Westin but Gugerty refused,” the police report stated. “Dyer said he did not intentionally fly the drone into Gugerty.

City commissioners this year considered a proposed ordinance that would have banned drones carrying recording equipment from special events, ball games, beaches and city parks that are occupied.

But the city’s legal team advised them to drop it, saying the federal government already regulates drones.

“You cannot enact an ordinance that violates or allows activity that is prohibited by the federal government,” Assistant City Attorney Ron Ramsingh said Oct. 7 at Old City Hall. “We cannot do it, folks.”

Ramsingh said the Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t have the resources to enforce its rules, and that’s why YouTube is filled with videos taken via drones.

But there are federal rules requiring a drone operator to have some type of certification.