DJI Phantom Drone Crashes Into The 30Th Floor Of The Metropolitan Square Building

dji-phantom-st-luis

Every now and then we see the occasional authority prohibiting drone usage. It was done in the Gas Explosion scene in NYC and now Yosemite National Park prohibits them all together. The following story may explain why.

Yesterday, a DJI Phantom 2 drone crashed into the Metropolitan Square Building in St. Louis. The Met Square is the tallest skyscraper in St Luise standing 180.7 meters (593 ft) tall. The Drone crashed the balcony of the 30th floor about two thirds of the height of the 42 floors building.

Both the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and St. Louis local police are trying to find who operated the drone as it was not claimed. Seems like the operator chose to leave the $650 drone rather than face the authorities. I can understand, quick (and probably inaccurate) math  shows that the 30th floor is at roughly 423 feet, slightly above the 400 feet which the FAA allows recreational drones to fly at. This is taken from the FAA FAQ:

Do I need to get approval from the FAA to fly a model aircraft for recreation?

No. FAA guidance does not address size of the model aircraft. FAA guidance says that model aircraft flights should be kept below 400 feet above ground level (AGL), should be flown a sufficient distance from populated areas and full scale aircraft, and are not for business purposes

Jason who sent us the story sums it up quite nicely: “I can’t imagine someone abandoning their drone just because they lost control and it landed on a balcony, but such is life.

The battle for unregulated drone usage continues with this case providing a strobe point in favor of those supporting regulation. Where do you stand on this?

[via cbslocal | photo of met one (cc) by Paul Sableman]

Comments

    • mzungu says

      Kind of like telling the cop that pulled you over driving 90mph on a residential street should let you go if you didn’t hit or kill anyone.

  1. Renato Murakami says

    We will eventually need some sort of regulation at some point because of this: people are dumb, and dangerous too.

    As quadrocopters and other RC devices being used to capture images (referenced as drones) becomes cheaper and more able (to capture good images), we’ll eventually have tons of professionals and amateurs using them.

    Things are progressing steadily already, but if you think about it, soon several events, tourist spots, among other places where there is something interesting happening will have at least one drone trying to cover from a different perspective. I think we’re getting close to that scenario already. By both pros and amateurs. And then, movie locations, advertising, etc etc…

    Problem is, with no regulation, we’ll have no limits on the ammount of drones flying at the same time, there’s no guarantee that someone flying a drone knows how to do it properly, and accidents could happen. Serious ones.

    This time it crashed on a balcony. Next, it could crash on someone’s head. It could crash into a powerline. It could create all sorts of damages.
    Not to mention how they could be used maliciously too.

    Let me ask, for instance, if the guy who crashed his dji phantom here had strapped a home made bomb to it.
    See how easy it was for him to abandon it? Without any regard for responsibility. I’m touching this sensitive spot so we start discussing about this possibility before it turns into a catastrophic news piece no one would want to see.

    Now, I know that the tech limitations today wouldn’t enable something completely disastrous to happen (perhaps, perhaps not), since there’s a limit on how much a readily available quadrocopter can carry, but no one knows about future versions, and a regulation has to consider that.

    The hard part becomes as to how to regulate it, and how to enforce the regulation afterwards. But I imagine proper identification, qualification, responsibilization, specific rules to determined scenarios, plus a bunch of other things will have to be evaluated.

    A bit sad, but it has to be done. You just can’t trust on the goodwill of drone operators not to make mistakes, to use it sensibly and to admit responsibility when something happens. It’s becoming too easy to get one of those drones… compared to RC models, the evolution of it tends towards cheaper and easier to use.

    Independent of what I think, when the first court case comes up, or when several of them starts happening, we’ll either go the regulation way or plain complete prohibition in public spaces. It’s already happening in parks, private spaces and other cases quoted.

    • Paganator says

      I’m skeptical that somebody who’s willing to use a bomb strapped to a drone would care about what regulations say.

      • Renato Murakami says

        You are of course right, but that’s exactly what I meant when I said about enforcing and monitoring such regulations.
        That’s what regulation is about anyways. Prevention, protection and then having ways to go after violators.
        Somebody who’s willing to use a bomb strapped to a drone might not care about regulations, but if the regulations are in place it’s easier for someone to prevent him from using the drone in the first place, narrowing down whoever the guy is if he’s trying to use it in a regulated area.
        Think of it as a law. A terrorist might not consider it when trying to enter an airport with a bomb, but the fact that it’s forbidden to enter an airport with a bomb had all sorts of consequences that makes it easier to detect and arrest the guy in the first place, get it?
        Didn’t think I’d have to explain it in the first place, but there you go.

        • ext237 says

          Think you missed Paganator’s point. Burdening law enforcement with yet another regulation isn’t going to stop someone who intends to break it — it just makes things more difficult for those who have no ill intentions.

          So to your point about not bringing a bomb into a airport isn’t applicable to this debate, there is no justifiable reason to bring a bomb in an airport. So yes, it should be banned. RC Toys have been around for years.

          You can strap a bomb to the top of an RC race car too. Or an RC Toy robot. Or a toy RC boat. Lets just ban RC entirely so when the bomb goes off, we can trace the wire back to the person holding the controller. Come on guys, think this through.

          • Rafael Campos says

            “Think you missed Paganator’s point. Burdening law enforcement with yet another regulation isn’t going to stop someone who intends to break it — it just makes things more difficult for those who have no ill intentions.”

            That is quite true and that is the whole point of it. Are you of the opinion that criminals should have it easier to commit crimes ? I am not.

            “You can strap a bomb to the top of an RC race car too. Or an RC Toy robot. Or a toy RC boat. Lets just ban RC entirely so when the bomb goes off, we can trace the wire back to the person holding the controller. Come on guys, think this through.”
            Yes , let’s think this through:
            Can a RC car or boat go above walls and into windows ? No.

            The slippery slope you are trying to conjure does not exist. A RC car cannot be used to film what is going on someones apartment, nor can it be used to circumvent security in a high building or to avoid security measures such as walls.

            It is quite naive to think that there is no need for “burdening” law enforcement with regulations when it comes to drones. Yes it is a drone it is even marketed as “your flying camera quadcopter drone” by dji.

          • catlett says

            It is already illegal to use a bomb so combine with that how it is easy to find open source drone plans and 3d print them makes your point moot. Making a law isn’t going to change what a terrorist does.

          • Rafael Campos says

            ” Making a law isn’t going to change what a terrorist does.” That is partially true but it is also completely besides the point. As I have stated before. That is also true to any sort of law, do you think we should do away with all laws so to “unburden” law enforcement ?

            A law does alter the behavior of the criminal, someone that wants a gun to commit a crime won’t go through about getting a gun in the same way someone would go if they wanted a gun for legal use. Laws do alter the behavior of criminals. The more contrived and out of their way criminals have to go the easier is for them to commit mistakes and the appeal to commit a crime as a shortcut of some reason also decreases.

            The 3d printing argument also applies to guns, so do you think we should just sell guns without any sort of regulations because of it ? I hope not.

          • Renato Murakami says

            Ok, take aside the bomb example… I don’t think you got my point, but I can understand why. I was trying to think of something less extreme, but nothing came up.

            This is pure speculation, and I could be completely wrong, but the way quadcopters (and perhaps even RC helicopters) differs is that they are airborne, and also that there is this currently evolving trend of new coverage done with them by pros and amateurs alike with no way of telling how good they are at handling these devices.

            Basically, they represent dangers people are overlooking, and problems will start arriving as they come. I don’t want to make yet another failed comparison, but perhaps cars and driving would be a more apt one.

            My point is this: when crap starts to happen, regardless of intentions – ill or not, what do you think will happen?

            Let’s say you have an open event. It’s popular and news outlets are all trying to cover it the best way possible.
            Suddenly, you have like 5 quadcopters trying to cover it simultaneourly. Couple of them crashes and one of them ends up falling on someone’s head, causing injury.

            Comes lawsuit, the owner stating that he knows how to handle a quadcopter, has all the security specs in it, and has done it before, but the other one who crashed into him handled it badly, had a cheap chinese quadcopter and was an amateur.

            Whose fault is it? There’s no regulation stating that your quadcopter has to have x and y security feats, no limits to how many should be flying during events, no standard for training, nothing.

            Then comes complaints from people who knows how to use quadcopters on how every event has tons of people who don’t know how to handle them, and accidents will happen because of them.

            With a number of cases similar to that happening all the time, rules will have to be made. Something that could be done in a per-basis manner when spaces are private or limited (in a way it could actually be effectively restricted). Probably the way it has been up to now.

            But if you start thinking about public open events, and no way of applying punishments, that’s when you start looking at regulations and ways of monitoring and enforcing in broader ways.

            The turning point I’m seeing and speculating about here, is that these drones or what people call them are getting crazy cheap, readily available, and oftenly used. So much so that it will turn into a problem soon. How many reports, videos, reviews, tests and now accidents we’ve been hearing about?

            It’s different from RC cars, robot toys and whatnot because of how they are being used. I’ve started noticing too many wreckless usage of it.

            I also don’t see an easy way of enforcing and monitoring. Doesn’t mean that there is none.

            Perhaps there could be ways of creating unique identifiers for them, making a device that could effectively monitor them via wireless channels or whatnot, and then event organizers and even the police could go after the ones that are unregistered.

            You’d have a limit of them per event, they’d have to be registered in some way, and then unregistered ones would be targeted. Not and easy feat I must add, but perhaps we’ll be needing something like that soon.

            Again, I’m not saying that putting regulation in place will absolutely stop people from violating it, it’s just something to be in place to prevent problems and work as a tool to go after those who will create problems.

            Yes, it’ll hinder the police, people with no ill intentions, and it won’t completely stop people from using it altogether. But this isn’t something I’m saying should be put together and applied overnight. It’s just something that I imagine that will have to be done eventually, and it’s better that we start discussing this sooner than later.

        • catlett says

          You apparently don’t understand the breadth of this. You can’t regulate plans that are already out. These can be 3d printed and all of the hardware and control software are easily available. What you are suggesting can not be prevented if someone wants to do it and has a little money and now they don’t even have to die in the process.

          • Renato Murakami says

            Naw, I think you don’t understand what I meant, sorry for the confusion.
            Forget the bomb and terrorist comparison, I only used it because I couldn’t come up with anything else.
            It’s not about people being able to manufacture it in some way or another, it’s about having rules in place for when problems starts happening.

            In the case of 3D printed stuff: you can 3D print a gun nowadays – that doesn’t mean that we should discard regulations for guns manufacturing altogether.

            These are official safety guidelines that should be followed to prevent problems, to be used in court cases, to filter down people who are obviously dismissing safety of others for own profit, and such.

            As long as we don’t have anything in place, everything is valid – that’s the problem. I think we have some laws that could be applied in court – like FAA stuff among others, but I don’t really know if they are enough.

            What I’m speculating here, and yes, it’s pure speculation, is about a future where we could have tens of quadcopters/drones whatever flying a determined event that would eventually generate several problems very specific to quadcopter usage. If there’s nothing in place, chaos will ensue.

          • ext237 says

            “As long as we don’t have anything in place, everything is valid – that’s the problem.”

            There are already laws regarding all the things you insist quadcopters are causing: property damage, invasion of privacy, physical harm to others, and terrorism.

            “If there’s nothing in place, chaos will ensue.”

            The first RC was used in 1898. RC devices took the current modern form in the early 60′s. If chaos does ensue, it’s at least 100 years overdue.

          • Renato Murakami says

            If you keep refusing to read what I wrote on new problems that might arise from excessive usage of drones in events I won’t write about it anymore. Really. I’m getting tired of repeating my explanation.

          • ext237 says

            Your comments are fully read, and quoted in my replies. I’m waiting to see when your replies will support your opinion that RC toys and quadcopters will promote property damage, invasion of privacy, and terrorism — unless a new law is created to prevent property damage, invasion of privacy and terrorism.

            I’m particularly interested in supporting information for how “chaos will ensue” if laws aren’t created to prevent people from playing with RC toys like quadcopters.

            You say there would be “several problems very specific to quadcopter useage”, but the problems you list (damage, privacy and terrorism) are already handled by other laws.

            Lets look at it another way. The damage created by a hitting something with a 2.5 lbs piece of plastic is probably fairly minimal — there are birds falling from the sky that weigh more. And these toy quadcopters lack the “lift” to pick up a massive bomb. So a terrorist would probably build their own DIY quadcopter for this task — and they don’t care about laws.

            So if preventing property damage and terrorism is the goal, banning out-of-the-box, consumer devices would be like banning BB guns to prevent school shootings.

            So maybe your suggestions aren’t wrong, you just haven’t supported them very well.

  2. Mike says

    11lb of metal falling 400ft is going to damage someone and/or something. What were they thinking?

  3. NotYourBusiness says

    yeah, JUST what we need..more government regulation..

    You idiot liberals….go live where the crap you want exists. Greece comes to mind.

    You’d love it there.

    morons.

    • Rex Deaver says

      Perhaps you should “….go live where the crap you want exists.” Somalia comes to mind.

      • ext237 says

        Come on Rex. Equating an accidental hobbyist RC helicopter goof with a region of terrorism, hunger, and lawlessness? Really?

        RC toys have been around for decades. So far, hobbyists haven’t used them to overthrow our government or facilitate mass-murder.

        So if we are telling people where to go live, maybe Canada would be a good choice. It’s less expensive there to purchase anxiety medication.

    • Mugwump says

      You are correct. Additional regulation would enable your government to fulfill its obligation to protect its citizens from internal threats to their safety and well being. No regulation in financial services, for example, spells corruption, lyin’ cheatin’ & stealin’ just like – ummm – oh yeah! Greece. Throw in money laundering for Russian gangsters and you’re in Cypress. Or maybe you like paying taxes while Apple pays nil on billions funnelled through Irish subsidiaries?

      I’m truly sorry if this is too complicated for you. That funny feeling you have is called ‘thinking.’

    • thermon says

      Typical conservative thinking: “We shouldn’t pass laws, because the criminals are just going to break them anyway”. Laws are what make actions into crimes. Without laws, there is no remedy when someone does something stupid and hurts or kills someone. When people or corporations are not capable of policing themselves, government regulation is required to keep people from getting hurt.

  4. Shachar Weis says

    These Phantom quadcopters (It’s not a drone) are not reliable as they are marketed to be. The operator could have been 10k away and watched his drone fly off because the GPS went crazy (it happens).

  5. Rex Deaver says

    Regulating airspace is just common sense. Balancing that regulation with legitimate use is, as always, the challenge.

  6. Frank says

    Hijacking this thread with a related topic: is there a good resource for finding out the specific rules and regulations for aerial photography in your area? I live in Baltimore, MD and I wanted to take a small weather balloon and send it up 200 ft on a string to take some aerial GoPro pics from my friend’s deck.

    My initial thought was that I probably wouldn’t need FAA approval since this is just floating at 200 ft. and “if people are allowed to fly their drones around in cities without any sort of regulation then what’s wrong with a balloon on a string?” but I was still concerned about traffic copters or maybe other local laws that prohibit it. Any thoughts?

  7. david d says

    Who’s to say some rogue FAA official didn’t fly the copter into the patio just to bring the issue up in the news and so prompt the law makers into doing what they most like to do, make laws?

  8. gs_790 says

    Every city I have ever lived in restricts motorized model aircraft to designated spaces.
    If a quadrocopter is a motorized model aircraft, then the same rules should apply.

    You don’t need new laws to ban drone use, because those laws probably already exist.
    What you need is a framework, if one does not already exist, to gain permission to use a drone outside of the model airfields. .

  9. ext237 says

    People have been using RC devices as a hobby for many many years. There were RC clubs back in the 70′s.

    A few people have lost some skin trying to start their propellers, but so far, there hasn’t been any mass casualties or an overthrown US government.

    Banning them *now* because one guy drops a quadcopter on a building is a regulation as useful as banning RC cars because someone bumped into a wall and left a mark in the paint.

  10. thermon says

    The 400 foot figure comes from an FAA Advisory, which suggests that model aircraft be flown at that level or lower. The entire advisory is completely voluntary according to the wording. The FAA has never issued any regulation concerning the operation of model aircraft. This was also the finding of the court case where the FAA lost. However, that doesn’t give everyone and anyone the right to fly model aircraft in ways that endanger the public.

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