A businessman walking through the East Side of Manhattan Monday was startled when a 3-pound helicopter drone crash landed a few feet from him. The man recovered a memory card from the downed craft and passed it along to a local ABC News station, which broke the story of the accident this afternoon.
The man, concerned that he could have been injured by the falling drone, contacted local police, who told him that no law had been broken and did not pursue the pilot. FAA rules state, however, that hobbyist drones must fly below 400 feet and keep away from airports and heavily populated areas like city streets. The Verge contacted FAA spokesman Les Dorr, but reached the following voicemail message: "I am out of the office due to a lapse in funding. Please call back after news reports advise a resumption of services for all federal agencies."
Chris Anderson, founder of the drone company 3D Robotics and the online community for enthusiasts, DIY Drones, confirmed that this kind of flight was illegal. "The FAA has very clear guidelines on this, and such flying over built-up areas is clearly in violation of those rules (and has been for decades)," said Anderson. "One of the things we created DIY Drones for was to inform people about such regulations and principles of responsible flight. But clearly the message needs to get out better."
The Verge has also reached out to the NYPD for comment.