Here’s an interesting story. A mysterious drone tells New Yorkers to keep a social distance, but it is not an official NYPD drone. No, this is a drone from the ‘Anti-COVID-19 volunteer drone task force’, which seems to be a non-existent organization. The drone, a DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise, tells people in a somewhat crowded Manhattan park to socially distance themselves. Eventhough the message may be appropriate, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has now started an investigation to find out more about this drone flight in New York City.
Around the world, we have seen authorities using drones to communicate to people, check people’s temperatures and disinfect streets all in the fight against the spreading Coronavirus.
Today we learn about this drone story where a mysterious drone appears over the weekend and tells New Yorkers to keep a social distance. This is not an official drone from the NYPD. So what is going on here?
The FAA has started an investigation to find out whether the drone that was telling people to socially distance was violating any aviation regulations. An FAA spokesperson confirmed this to The Hill.
Mysterious drone flies over a Manhattan park
A video of the mysterious drone flying over a Manhattan park was posted on Twitter by CBS News on Sunday.
“This is the Anti-COVID-19 volunteer drone task force,” the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise blasts over its loudspeaker to pedestrians in the park. “Please maintain a social distance of at least six feet. Again, please maintain social distancing.”
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 5, 2020
The Hill reports that the news outlet was not able to determine if such a “volunteer drone task force” exists, and as of yet, no party has come forward to claim responsibility.
The Hill does report that an official for the New York Police Department said it was not one of their drones. The NYPD spokesperson said that it is illegal to fly drones in NYC, except inside five designated park areas, authorized by the FAA.
The NYPD spokesperson was likely referring to this outdated law that prohibits aircraft from taking off and landing in New York City.
“It shall be unlawful for any person [n]avigating an aircraft to take off or land, except in an emergency, at any place within the limits of the city other than places of landing designated by the department of transportation or the port of New York authority.”
FAA starts an investigation over drone flight
An official from the FAA has said that the agency will start an investigation to find out if the pilot had registered his drone and if he had permission to fly an unmanned aircraft in NYC.
Interestingly, it seems that the drone pilot in question has been found already by A. Yoder, who shared the following video on Facebook. The drone pilot seems to go by the name of droneXfactor on YouTube. On Facebook, somebody pointed out that he has a Part 107 license.
In response to another commenter who informs droneXfactor that the FAA has started an investigation, droneXfactor replies:
“Where’s your proof? I am in compliance! Link? I hope you’re not spreading fake News 😂”
Depending on where exactly the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise was flown, this flight may or may not have been illegal. However, considering there are only a few places where you can legally fly in NYC, there is a good chance it wasn’t. Other things that may land the pilot in hot water are, the airspace classification, whether he flew his drone over people, over moving traffic, beyond-line-of-sight, or near sensitive facilities such as heliports or power plants. And, as pointed out by the FAA, whether his drone was officially registered.
Looking more closely at the video, the coordinates of where the drone took off, are visible. They point to a location in Manhattan, close to the John V Lindsay East River Park Track, which is the park shown later on in the video.
Hopefully, for the pilot, the FAA will only issue a warning in this case. And in case things do get more serious, I’m sure Casey Neistat knows a good lawyer.
What do you think about this mysterious drone flight? Most commenters on YouTube seemed to agree with the general message, warning people to keep their distance and stay in their homes as much as possible. Do you agree as well? Or do you think it was a bad idea to use the drone this way and at this location? Let us know in the comments below. And, stay safe!