A throng of fans celebrating the Los Angeles kings’ Stanley Cup victory outside the Staples Center were able to knock down and destroy a small drone flying over the crowd, leaving authorities to wonder about the identity of the owner days later.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently announced it will loosen the restrictions that regulate the civilian use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) but if video of the event is any indication, drones still have to fight an uphill battle for the public’s acceptance.
The drone in question was launched by an unknown operator Friday night after Kings fans took to the streets to celebrate the Kings’ championship win over the New York Rangers. Almost immediately after the partiers noticed the UAs, they began throwing objects at it, with each attempt ratcheting up the tension until a black Kings T-shirt ultimately brought the aircraft down. Outstretched arms stopped the drones’ descent before it was smashed to bits by a fan with a skateboard.
A number of online observers speculated over the weekend that the UAS, a three-pound “quadcopter,” belonged to the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD recovered the leftover pieces of the drone as lost property but denied they were watching the crowd from approximately 30 feet above.
“It is not the LAPD’s drone,” Commander Andrew smith told the Daily Breeze newspaper. “When it flew over me, it looked like it had a camera on the bottom.”
The FAA maintained in interviews with reporters Monday that whoever the drone operator was, he didn’t appear to be breaking any laws. Officials pointed to a 1981 law stipulating that all model aircraft must remain at an altitude below 400 feet and at least three miles away from an airport. Again, the rules has been in place for nearly three decades, but has been a topic of discussion of late because of the thriving UAS industry and the increasingly passionate calls from drone hobbyists to loosen the guidelines that currently prohibit “commercial use.”
Over 80 law enforcement agencies currently have agreements with the FAA to fly drones, according to the Los Angeles Times, with the LAPD recently acquiring two Predator drones from the Seattle Police Department.