Moral to the story: Avoid buzzing Alcatraz.

This seemed to get very little uptake in the mainstream media... perhaps for the better.  Nevertheless, I thought it was worth sharing here:

From the article:

Two Marin County men were cited by federal authorities over a drone helicopter buzzing around Alcatraz Island, the National Park Service reported.

The operator of the remote-controlled helicopter, which is equipped with high-definition cameras, was Devin Hedrick, an aerial photographer who lives in Greenbrae. Hedrick's service, Hover Effect LLC, offers airborne video and still photography for real estate listings, music videos and television shows.

On Tuesday, working from a boat on the bay, Hedrick was operating the electric helicopter for a client, Bruce Paquett of Sausalito, whose project involves images of Alcatraz. According to park service spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet, the helicopter, which has a rotor span of about 6 feet, was flying low around the island, frightening the birds and swooping over the tourists' ferry dock.

The U.S. Coast Guard, carrying a National Park Service ranger, approached their boat and confiscated the video. After watching it, the park service issued citations to both Hedrick and Paquett.

"Their own footage showed us what they were doing, which was scaring the shorebirds from their nests and getting too close to the people on the dock," Picavet said.

Hedrick was cited on suspicion of disturbing wildlife, operating aircraft within 500 feet of a boat dock, creating hazardous conditions and operating an aircraft within the Federal Aviation Administration-imposed closure of 2,000 feet above the island.

Paquett was cited on suspicion of filming without a permit.

Alcatraz is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which is managed by the National Park Service.

Hedrick, reached by telephone, said he thought the boat was 500 feet away.

"There certainly are some things I should have been more clear about, instead of just taking the advice of the boat driver," he said.

Views: 1538

Comment by Gary Mortimer on July 2, 2012 at 2:59am

It can't be long before the first prosecution, it would seem these guys have put themselves squarely in the cross hairs. Especially if the rangers still have the footage and want to take it further.

Comment by Skydog222 on July 2, 2012 at 7:08am

Get ready for more stories like this as the FAA starts taking their blinders off and starts taking a more active role by cracking down on "illegal operations".  According to the FAA, right now, there is zero commercial (in the private sector that is) use of UAVs allowed (this includes remotely piloted helicopters and airplanes as well, does not have to have an autopilot onboard).  To put it plain and simple, if you are a private entity and you make money by selling your services or products produced with a UAV, it is illegal.  Sad but true.  

So be careful out there if that is your business.  Think about where and how your are operating because more and more people are going to start reporting you to the authorities if they think you are bothering them.     

Comment by Robert Pigeon on July 2, 2012 at 7:26am

 Bartering for your services is legal, so don't trade for cash!

Comment by Gary Mortimer on July 2, 2012 at 8:32am

No it's not in aviation, that would be considered valuable consideration

Comment by Jani Hirvinen on July 2, 2012 at 8:44am

Actually it's been done already. At least in Thailand. Few weeks ago local Thai police captured group of users who delivered/tried to deliver different items to Thai prison. What did they deliver was not mentioned but rumors says that it was mobile phones and other similar size payloads. Local authorities seized all their tools. 

Only comment was that "Local group used high-tech equipment to deliver illegal product". According picture on local newspaper it was hexacopter and some normal rc-helicopters.

At least this trip ended... Cops 1, Bad guys 0

And yeah we gon't like 100 phone calls next day "Was it yours...". No it was not :)

Comment by Gary Mortimer on July 2, 2012 at 8:52am

They were probably copying the recent one from Brazil

I liked the bow and arrow cell phone delivery best myself. As I just said somewhere else, simple is often best!

Comment by Jack Crossfire on July 2, 2012 at 3:08pm

It depends on how low it was & how big it was.  A 6ft rotor diameter flying near people is bad.  Operating it for money, over a crowded national park, is just asking the feds to bust you.

Comment by Charles K Taylor on July 2, 2012 at 11:05pm

If you are not operating for sport and recreation it is illegal.  It doesn't matter how you are paid or compensated.  The FAA is very good at figuring out if you are operating commercially.  

(a) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law
relating to the incorporation of unmanned aircraft systems into
Federal Aviation Administration plans and policies, including this
subtitle, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration
may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model
aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft, if—
(1) the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational
(2) the aircraft is operated in accordance with a communitybased
set of safety guidelines and within the programming
of a nationwide community-based organization;
(3) the aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds
unless otherwise certified through a design, construction,
inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered
by a community-based organization;
(4) the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not
interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and
(5) when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator
of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport
air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located
at the airport) with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft
operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of
an airport should establish a mutually-agreed upon operating
procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic
control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the
(b) STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this section shall
be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue
enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft who
endanger the safety of the national airspace system.
(c) MODEL AIRCRAFT DEFINED.—In this section, the term ‘‘model
aircraft’’ means an unmanned aircraft that is—
(1) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;
H. R. 658—68
(2) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating
the aircraft; and
(3) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

Comment by Phillip Jones on July 9, 2012 at 6:02pm

I saw this news story, too. I'm annoyed that they refer to a remote-controlled helicopter as a drone, but I guess that's the buzzword right now so it draws more eyeballs.

What I think is most interesting is that the FAA was not involved in this at all. The National Park Service issued the citations and none of the citations were related to UAV operation. Every National Park has a 2,000ft boundary for all aircraft -- it doesn't matter if its remote controlled, uav, cessna, or leer jet -- aircraft are required to stay out of National Parks, and Alcatraz is a National Park. 

It sounds like the FAA could impose further sanctions if they wanted to.


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