Chief Phil Perlini of the Grayslake (Ill.) Police Department and his officers were monitoring the festivities at the town’s July 4th fireworks display when they saw something very unusual. It was a remote controlled helicopter flying near the multi-color pyrotechnic bursts, apparently in an effort to capture the event on the video camera it carried.
“It came out of nowhere,” Perlini told local reporters, adding that the aircraft approached from the north, flew a few hundred feet around the fireworks, then departed to the south.
Grayslake, located 35 miles northwest of Chicago, was one of many locations around the country where camera-equipped UAV rotorcraft flew in and around public fireworks displays. The FAA has been concerned about such activities, saying unregulated UAV operations can endanger commercial air traffic, as well as citizens on the ground, especially if the remote vehicle crashes into a crowd.
Fourth of July fireworks display. Photo by Katie Kriz
To help control limit hazards, FAA issued a series of policies restricting such UAV flights if they did not have prior permission from the regulatory agency. But earlier this year, when an administrative judge ruled that the FAA’s policies did not carry the weight of law, UAV videographers dramatically increased flights for personal enjoyment, Internet posting, and commercial gain.
FAA has been relatively quiet on this subject since the judge’s ruling, except to say that it expects to have enforceable regulations in place by the end of 2014.
Related: Unmanned News