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Two Men Charged For Nearly Crashing Drone Into NYPD Helicopter Over George Washington Bridge

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Two Manhattan men were arrested and arraigned on felony reckless endangerment charges early Monday after they piloted a drone that almost struck an NYPD helicopter flying over the George Washington Bridge, police said on Tuesday, forcing the police chopper to steer off course in order to avoid a crash. (www.hngn.com) Altro...

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LordLayton
The defense attorney in this case is highly uninformed. Those drones sure can go 2,000 ft even though fed regs ban them from over 400 ft. near a control zone.
Sid3ways
Also calling them drones is not accurate. These are just like any other radio controller helicopter except they have more than one blade.

The real catalyst to all of this negative press though is the FPV (first person view) technology which allows pilots to see what the copter sees as they are flying through video goggles or a monitor. They give people the ability to fly 2000 feet into the air or a mile down the road without any worry. When in reality you have a much more connected feeling to the craft because you have the ability to see exactly where you are.
sparkie624
sparkie624 0
By strict definition they are drones. However, that means DRONES have been flying around for DECADES.... All RC planes even in the 50's when they first came out would be under the definition of drones.. And I have 25+ drones that I fly for the fun of it... Some with Lights to fly at night, some with cameras... So What.. It is a strict definition, but not a good definition
ugotkevin
ugotkevin 2
Easy sparkie, easy...

This quadcopter can be considered a drone (FAA calls it an unmanned aircraft system - UAS) as it uses GPS to help stabilize it / navigate. The operator can turn that function off and use it as a normal r/c helicopter if they wanted to though. If used as a r/c it's basically got to be flown line of site, obey the community rules, stay away from airplanes, and notify the airport if you'll be flying within 5 miles (from the east side of the George Washington Bridge it's under 6 miles to TEB and JFK). Also the FAA can prosecute if it feels the NAS was in danger.

In the advisory circular the 400 foot "rule" has nothing to do with the distance from the airport, so stop making that connection. Besides, advisory circulars are not regulatory so you don't have to follow them (although it's the smart thing to do).

In my opinion these r/c pilots aren't the brightest of the bunch to be flying around at midnight as they almost certainly will be getting some kind of attention. Also in defense of the helicopter pilot lights can play mean tricks at night.
zimmerfly
zimmerfly 1
A blanket 400 foot limitation is indicated here:

http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/media/model_aircraft_spec_rule.pdf

middle of page 4
sparkie624
sparkie624 -5
Please note my message below. They were 7.6 miles from the closest airport, they WERE NOT limited to 400 feet as per the "Advisory Circular 91-57" It may be true that the defense attorney is totally uninformed, but so are you.
crankymate
I've seen you post this multiple times, and I have to wonder whether you have comprehension difficulties or if you just want to see what you want to see because it supports your view.
91-57 states very clearly:
"Do not fly model aircraft higher than 400 feet above the surface. When flying aircraft within 3 miles of an airport, notify the airport operator, or when an air traffic facility is located at the airport, notify the control
tower, or flight service station."
This is not an AND logical statement. It is two distinct statements:
1. Do not fly model aircraft higher than 400 feet above the surface.
2. When flying aircraft within 3 miles of an airport, notify the airport operator, or when an air traffic facility is located at the airport, notify the control tower, or flight service station.

So model aircraft should not be flown higher than 400ft above the surface anywhere.
sparkie624
sparkie624 -7
To put it bluntly because you cannot understand it any other way is.. They over by more than double the distance... They were 7.559376 miles from the closes airport... That advisory circular is for 3 miles and closer... what can you not understand... They were further than 3 miles.... 6 miles would be double that, and 7 in case your math is off 7 is further away than 6... READ YOUR OWN POST...

"Do not fly model aircraft higher than 400 feet above the surface. When flying aircraft within 3 miles of an airport"

Doh.... READ IT! The 400 foot limitation is no where near in effect.. I am not sure why you and so many others are blind to that... When you read the FAR's you read all of them and do what it says... not what you want it to read... It is very clear that you do not understand your full post... If you had rad mine, you would have seen approx 7.6 miles, but to me a little more accurate, they were 7.559376 miles from KTEB (so you don't have to look it up and risk misinterpretation that is Teterboro in New Jersey.

You saying model a/c should not be flow higher than is Total and Absolute BS... Do not interpit what you want it to say... Read what it really says... There is NO altitude restriction further than 3 miles from an airport... PERIOD...

To Make you Better Understand if you are driving down the road at 75 MPH and you get pulled over by a cop, and you say.. But Officer, 3 1/2 miles down the road I can do 75... That doesn't mean that is what it says where you are at..

BTW, Have you had reading class... If not, take one, if you have, take one again.
duckboy81
duckboy81 4
All you need to read is "Do not fly model aircraft higher than 400 feet above the surface." That's it -- it's a complete sentence all by itself.
JMARTINSON
JMARTINSON 1
Basic punctuation knowledge aside, you have to admit the document is oddly constructed (assuming I'm looking at the right one). It's almost like it was written as an afterthought or maybe edited down to a single page from just a few lines over. Or maybe dictated and typed up, or done close to quitting time, who knows. Looking at the rest of the list under operating standards though, combining the altitude and airport proximity limitations is a really odd choice.

Or maybe the author was ahead of his time and hoped a little dose of 2nd amendment ambiguity might secure his place in history, who knows. So far so good.
devsfan
ken young 3
I think you are the one who is incorrect.
"1. Do not fly model aircraf thigher than 400 feet above the ground" is very specific and unambiguous....
That statement is mutually exclusive of all others. There is no distance or other regulation attached to it. There are no if's and's or but's...."DO NOT"
Means precisely THAT. DO NOT.....
End of debate.
JMARTINSON
JMARTINSON 1
"Have you had reading class... If not, take one, if you have, take one again."

I was going to suggest a writing class or two might dovetail nicely with your existing reading coursework, but on second thought I'm not so sure. Revealing, hilarious, frightening, hypocritical, incorrect, inadvertent, and irritating... all in 15 words or less. Right or wrong, it's a masterpiece.
nasdisco
Chris B 2
Can you imagine the chaos at the FAA if every drone had to get a N number?
ssobol
If a quadcopter is a drone, is a 4 engine RC plane also a drone. Is a tri rotor copter not a drone, but a hexapod copter is? I have a RC helicopter that has 3 axis stabilization (but no GPS) is that a drone? You could argue that any stabilized flying device (which can be done mechanically by virtue of the the aircraft configuration) is a drone. Why not make the control system of the RC aircraft (i.e. drone) incapable of driving the device above 400' agl from the takeoff point? You could do this with barometric or electronic altitude detection.
JMARTINSON
JMARTINSON 1
Enforcement would be impossible, not that it ever stopped us before...
cm5299
Chuck Me 1
This drone has an altitude limiter on it. Looks like the default is 120m high. Not sure if it was (or can be) changed, but it should be pretty easy to tell who is telling the truth in this case.

Cops say flying at 2,000 feet. Drone lawyer says 300 feet. Someone is lying.
bovineone
A firmware update from March 2014 for the DGI Phantom says that: "Main controller firmware now includes the Flight Limits functions, inclusive of maximum height radius limits, which is aimed to help users fly more safely. Max height is set at 400m and max radius is 1600m by default."

http://www.dji.com/info/releases/dji-released-new-firmware-v2-00-for-phantom-2-vision

Reading through the documentation, it appears that you can switch from GPS-assisted mode to a "Naza-M manual" mode that is not restricted to a maximum altitude (though you are still presumably limited by radio transmission range).
cm5299
Chuck Me 1
Thanks. I got my info from the instruction manual.

You think 400m and 1600m are right? I think it's more likely those are feet. If I recall, the transmitter range is only rated for 800m.

Ah who knows.
randomguy
randomguy 1
Do these auto update, or is it just as likely that the version it shipped with is the only version one of these suckers ever sees?
bovineone
They are available for download on their website, so it sounds like they are manually installed.
Sid3ways
They are not forced to update. There are many users who are still retaining the old version of the software which didn't have the flight limitations on it. They release new hardware which some times forces you to upgrade the firmware to use it but if you don't need the new hardware features, there is no reason to upgrade.
Sid3ways
Though I forgot to add, even if you have the limit firmware on there, the box allows you to adjust the settings for your country. Some countries like France have very small limitations so you can shrink the flying area and height. On the other hand you can put in 9999m for the radius too and fly until the battery dies. :)
TorstenHoff
>> Meanwhile, a prosecutor told the judge that police reported the drone as having flown 2,000 feet in the air, but a defense attorney argued that the model used can only fly at heights of 300 feet. "This vehicle can't go above 300 feet," said Castro and Wilkins' attorney, Michael Kushner. "They did nothing more than fly a kite."

Either the lawyer is ignorant, or outright lying.

I would expect the NYPD to have video evidence from the helicopter's FLIR (given that all of this happened after midnight). If the drone had been flying at 300 feet or below, the pilots would likely never have noticed it near the bridge. Chances are they were flying much higher to get a night-time shot of Manhattan, and for that you'd want to be at least as high as the buildings are tall. Also, the George Washington Bridge itself is over 600 feet tall, that's twice the height that the lawyer claims the drone was at.
TorstenHoff
And since the drones were confiscated, their recordings may provide the ultimate evidence to prove or disprove the claims being made. If there is video from the level of the bridge or above, the claims of the lawyer are disproven. Also, a check of the firmware would show if the drone was capable of flying above the claimed altitude (though not whether the limit was enabled)
captainjman
You assume that the altitude of 300 feet was above the water and not above the surface of the bridge.

Also, one is talking in terms of feet and one in terms of meters. HELO said 2000 FEET, and drone said 400 METERS.

Lets see -

IF you start out at bridge height of 600 feet and fly 400 meters (which is 1200 feet) you are at 1800 feet
If you fly at 2000 feet in the helicopter and the drone is at 1800 feet you only have 200 feet separation.

THEN THERE IS ALTIMETER ISSUES

1. Calibration - altimeter must be within 75 feet +/- to be legal to fly. If it was -75 feet now the separation is only 125 feet.

2. TYPE OF ALTITUDE - is it absolute altitude? Is it Sea Level? Is it Above Ground Level? If the drone is based off of 29.92" of mercury , the difference of 125 feet is just .2 inches of mercury difference.

This is why rules pertaining to drone flight must be established prior to the FAA giving the green light for commercial use. Once commerce sets their teeth into these things they will be absolutely everywhere and the "big sky" concept will once again prove inadequate...... just ask those souls in the grand canyon!
devsfan
ken young 1
the bridge deck is at most 205 ASL....If the 400 ft rule is observed, the vehicle can go to 2/3rds the tower height of 625 ft ASL
cm5299
Chuck Me 1
Yeah. Between helicopter and the drone's software - it should be pretty easy to get the truth on this.
devsfan
ken young 1
The VFR space around Manhattan and over NJ ranges from 1300 to 1800 ft ASL
It would seem to me that if these guys were operating the craft above 1300 ft over the Hudson, were they not in violation of a rule?
How does this work with radio controlled aircraft?
Are there rules in place which govern the operation of radio controlled aircraft?
ifrflyer
I was flying into Van Nuys on Monday and had a white quad copter drone come within 50' of me at 900'AGL. It definitely got my attention.
devsfan
ken young 1
I will sum this up.....Regardless of how the law or regulations read, juts because one CAN do something does not necessarily mean they SHOULD do that thing.
In other words, there's a time when discretion is the better part of valor.
Yes, there is not doubt in my mind that these guys were more than likely attempting to get some pretty cool video footage of the GWB as it appears at night.
Unfortunately, they made a miscalculation
Sid3ways
http://motherboard.vice.com/read/police-recording-confirms-nypd-flew-at-a-drone-never-feared-crash
sparkie624
sparkie624 -5
I had heard that recording.. Thanks for sharing... Even at 2000 feet those guys I believe were legal. The regs states that he must be at or below 400 feet if within 3 miles from the airport. Looking at it on a sectional chart and measuring it out the quad copter was approx 7.6 miles from the nearest airport that in fact was KTEB. The helicopter wrongly followed a legal model aircraft inflight and put himself in danger as well as the QUAD. The Cop is the one who violated the law here, not the citizen flying the QuadCopter... The news has it all wrong... Listen to the tape and view it on the map.
Sid3ways
Yes I would have to agree. The height of their flight near the city probably wasn't the greatest idea (regardless if legal or not) but the audio tells the true story. Unfortunately one news organization took the sensational title and posted it and every other news website saw it and ran with it. When in reality they were no danger to the chopper and the audio really tells you there had no idea what to charge them with but because the officers felt like they must be doing something wrong, they decided to pursue and arrest them. I have built a 4 year business selling high end Octocopters for clients ($10k-$25k) and companies for photography/videography purposes all over the world.

Unfortunately I can see the writing on the wall that regulation is going to come down hard because of the media alone and how they portray these stories. The general public will follow suit. With the price of these drones so cheap now, anyone can grab one and fly it into the wrong airspace and cause an actual mid-air event. My fingers are crossed that when the regulation comes down, they still allow proper pilots to be certified to continue to work in a safe and responsible manner.
sparkie624
sparkie624 -2
That is the way this country is heading.. They are regulating us into poverty... They are wondering why companies are leaving the US, and yet every day they give them more rules and even change the rules midstream and costing too much money... That is going to be one of the big down falls of us.
bees31ballard
Why are we still considering rules for drones. As long as idiots have them, there will be no rules. When a commercial airliner is downed on take off because someone wanted to get great shots from the end of the runway area of a jumbo taking off and gets sucked into an engine and crashes the plane, then and only then will we stop this nonsense. Spying on beaches, high rise apartments, flying in the midst of fireworks shows, etc.. Wow.. This will be out of control in the next year or two. Oh, wait, it is already out of control.
RECOR10
RECOR10 1
I was just shopping on eBay...$500 and I could have a sweet one...almost ready to pull the trigger...
goldstarimage
LOL police could not even figure out it was an RC toy. What kind of training are these cops receiving? "ohh it has to be military", "it just did a 180 degress turn on us" etc etc bla bla. At least they didn't confuse it for an UFO.
sparkie624
sparkie624 0
LOL.. Not much.. Surprised they did not call in the Air force thinking it was a UFO
goldstarimage
LOL maybe they should fire those cops for endangering the life if innocent people trying to go after a toy. Next time I fly my kite I have to be careful that cops are going to follow the string to know where I am to come and arrest me. ;)
sparkie624
sparkie624 -9
This story is way out of proportion... How close was he to the nearest airport... If within 3 miles he had a altitude restriction of 400 feet... If not, it was 18,000 feet The cop in the helicopter and the NYPD is making a bigger deal out of that it really should be...

This is all part of a liberal agenda to create new stupid regulations of which they cannot enforce the ones they already have.
bovineone
The bridge is actually pretty close to a very major airport... It is less than 10 nm from LaGuardia airport, which would normally be inside of its class Bravo controlled airspace (Surface to 7000 ft AGL)... However, due to the extremely heavy VFR transit area of the Hudson river, the bridge and the waterway are designated as being below the class Bravo in that area (1300 AGL to 7000 AGL).

Therefore any drones should certainly be less than 1300 AGL in that area to remain clear of the controlled Bravo airspace.

Since this is also over water, airplanes/helicopters can legally be flying much lower than over other populated parts of the city (airplanes/helicopters can legally fly down to the water level, but must try to maintain 500 ft to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure).

If the drone were operating much closer than 500 feet from the bridge in all cases, then there would probably not be much collision risk since the police helicopter would have been expected to maintain at least 500 ft separation from the bridge also, though the 500 ft separation from the drone's position might not be guaranteed. Rotor wash and intake from the police helicopter might make the drone an ingestion concern, though?

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

cheshire
Cal Keegan 6
You are completely incorrect and for you to draw this conclusion from the FAA Circular requires a tortured and labyrinthine interpretation of plain English. Manned aircraft are required to fly at or above 500 feet except when maneuvering near an airport or under certain special circumstances. Hmm, aircraft at 500 feet and above, RC planes and drones at 400 feet and below. That seems pretty smart. Your nonsensical interpretation would mean the FAA, which specializes in keeping aircraft from flying into each other, didn't see a problem with letting aircaft fly into each other. It would be amusing to see you argue this in court although hopefully not after having had a midair with a 737.
JMARTINSON
JMARTINSON 1
Hmm, special circumstances. Like a police helicopter?
bovineone
I think you're misinterpreting the "3 Mile limit".

Advisory Circular 91-57 says that it must operate below 400 ft AGL. Period. If within 3 miles of an airport, you must notify the tower prior to any operations (which may mean you can get permission to do so).

http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgAdvisoryCircular.nsf/0/1acfc3f689769a56862569e70077c9cc/$FILE/ATTBJMAC/ac91-57.pdf


TheFAA's most recent publication also does not state anything about a 3 mile limit or changing the altitude restriction beyond 400 AGL. http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/media/model_aircraft_spec_rule.pdf


And the other primary thing that you have not mentioned at all is the requirement for "the devices give right of way to, and avoid flying near manned aircraft". If the helicopter supposedly had to make evasive actions, then it was probably too close, regardless of its altitude.
Sid3ways
Here is the breakdown according to the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) which generally is the Washington lobby that works with the FAA to help develop guidelines.

"Your questions answered-The 400 foot limit for model aircraft."
http://amablog.modelaircraft.org/amagov/2012/03/08/your-questions-answered-the-400-foot-limit-for-model-aircraft/
devsfan
ken young 1
I am thinking sparkie is an operator of RC aircraft or he is flying drones.
He seems to protest far too much

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

jimmax23
Section c: "Do not fly model aircraft higher than 400 feet above the surface.
When flying aircraft within 3 miles of an airport, notify the airport operator,
or when an air traffic facility is located at the airport, notify the control
tower, or flight service station."

It's pretty clear, stay below 400 AGL. If within 3 mi of an airport, notify that you'll be operating below 400 AGL.
crchall
Hey Jim. A typical model sailplane launch from a winch is 800-900ft. What are we supposed to do, just hand launch them. In cross country competition we often fly at 2500-3000ft. We use a spotter, but it is within the rules outside the 3 mile limit from airports.
bovineone
The altitudes you describe would be in violation of the "voluntary compliance" requested of AC91-57.

If you need to operate at such altitudes (or higher) regularly, I think the FAA might have the opinion that your model sailplanes may need to be a "certified" UAV. You might also want to contact the FAA days before each flight so that they can publish a NOTAM/TFR to close off a radius around your location from other planes. There are regularly such NOTAMs for military UAV testing/training operations.
sparkie624
sparkie624 -8
You said it yourself... You have no clue apparently... You said with 3 miles... They were EXACTLY 7.559376 nautical miles from KTEB, the nearest airport. They were not Limited to 400 feet... Section C does NOT APPLY HERE
cmcginty
stop trolling. you are an idiot if you truly can not understand everyone explaining the rules to you. The AMA regs do not match the FCC advisory. If you want to ignore the FCC doc, then fine, but stop trying to pretend you are right and everyone else is wrong.
devsfan
ken young 2
you are out of control...
You've gotten yourself painted into the corner of "incorrect" and now you are simply lashing out at others because you've embarrassed yourself.
cm5299
Chuck Me 4
I explained to you in another thread why you are wrong about the 3 mile thing. Please stop spreading this misinformation unless you can point to a specific reg. Thank you.

Jeff has provided clear information that shows the 3 mile "rule" has nothing to do with altitude. Please provide something showing otherwise. Thank you.
sparkie624
sparkie624 -7
I have explained to you here why you are wrong...
bovineone
I believe that document says that you are unconditionally limited to 400 ft AGL, regardless of distance from an airport. You are only required to contact the tower if you intend to operate less than 3 miles from the airport.
sparkie624
sparkie624 -8
BS, not true.
crchall
Absolutely true. 91-57 states the 400 ft limit without regard to the 3 mile limit. They are two separate parts of the advisory. The AMA regulation does connect the 400 ft limit to the 3 mile distance but that is not a part of Advisory Circular 91-57. I just went and read them both to be sure. I fly R/C and a 182. The most important aspect of both sets of regulations is that model aircraft must maintain safe separation from human carrying aircraft at all times and it is the model operators responsibility to do so. Read them.
devsfan
ken young 2
It does not matter. 400 feet is the limit
devsfan
ken young 2
Nope...Once again...The 91-57 states DO NOT fly higher than 400 feet above ground level( surface)
btweston
btweston 2
You're high. Please realize that your last sentence makes zero sense.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

devsfan
ken young 1
Sunshine, this is not a political issue.
FYI, Im a conservative and I see 100% logic in the 400 ft limit.
LordLayton
Including that clown Nancy Pelosi complaining about a law she helped to enact. DOLTS!
aviating
We've had footage on our local news from one of these drones, looking down at traffic flying into CYVR, less than 4 miles from the runway...yes, over 2000', higher than I am permitted with my C150. These are not toys when they threaten lives...it's going to happen, unintentionally or deliberate. These 'model-helicopters' are not equipped with transponders, TCAS, or altimeters. And common sense operators need not apply. How about amending to fly no higher than 400 feet over built-up areas? CARS in Canada forbid me from flying less than 2000' over built-up areas. Suggestions? When the first mid-air occurs, THEN it'll be a problem...then the regs will 'fly', and us flyers will be the ones required to comply.
chrisjoh
chrisjoh 0
Some of you guys have no idea... they were not only flying the drone above 400' AGL (which IS the limit for RC aircraft), at 2000' they were in Class B airspace, which is not even allowed for piloted aircraft without a clearance.

The 400' AGL (above ground level) limit is unrelated to distance to an airport, it is the altitude at which the airspace becomes part of the National Airspace System and is reserved for piloted aircraft that must adhere to the FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations). Those regulations also apply sown to the surface when in closer proximity to some airports.

Class B airspace carries much more restrictive rules and provides a buffer between high density commercial aviation operations such as airline flights around major airports. This is a MAJOR safety of flight factor and you can bet that in addition to any charges prosecuted on the local level that the FAA will be enforcing their rules very proactively within Class B airspace. These guys are going to be made an example of.

BTW, if anyone reading this thinks flying drones (below 400' AGL. within physical line of sight and directly controlled by an operator for non-commercial purposes is legal RC operations, anything else such as GPS guided, gyro-stabilized, remote camera vision in lieu of physical line of sight or altitude above 400' is an illegal drone) NOT SAFE OR LEGAL. Let's just say your mother is on a commercial flight arriving into White Plains, NY from Florida... and a drone comes busting through the windshield of the 737 she's in as it's descending through 1500' five miles from the airport...

Stay away from airports, below 400' and away from densely populated areas and 500' away from people and you won't have a problem.

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