As drone photography becomes more popular, expect to read more stories like this: A videographer and remote airplane enthusiast Kele Stanley was charged with a felony on April 13, 2014, after refusing police requests to land his camera drone, officials in Ohio’s Clark County said.
Stanley, a 31-year-old copy machine repairman, was flying a $4,000 hexacopter camera drone about 75 feet above the scene of a traffic accident involving a pickup truck that careened into a tree in Clark County’s Moorefield Township. Local authorities allegedly ordered the man to ground his drone because a medical helicopter was en route for the wounded driver.
He admitted that his drone was still airborne at that time, but Stanley denies the claim of law-enforcement ordering him to land. “I’m not an idiot,” Stanley told the Columbus Dispatch. “If I had known that Care Flight was on the way, my helicopter would have come down immediately. There wouldn’t have been any dispute.”
According to the Dispatch, there are no regulations governing private usage of unmanned aircraft in Ohio. Law enforcement agencies in the area must get permits to use them, but virtually anyone else – including hobbyists – don’t have those restrictions.
Stanley, who also works as a wedding videographer, was aware that he wasn’t doing anything unlawful by flying his camera drone. He claims the first time he heard about the medical helicopter, he immediately brought the drone down and didn’t fly it again.
Regardless of his claims, Stanley posted a $425 bail after his arrest and had his first court appearance on April 15 to face charges of obstruction, misconduct in an emergency, and disorderly conduct.
If you’re looking to try drone photography/videography, first understand the laws governing your local community or wherever you plan to try the drone out. From the stories we’ve read of people getting in trouble with law enforcement authorities, it seems the lines are blurred, between what users understand to be their rights and the police’s interpretation of the law. Do some research and know your rights.