The New York Police Department on Tuesday arrested Daniel Feighery, a photographer and cameraman, for flying his unmanned drone over the National Tennis Center in Queens where matches of the US Open are taking place.
According to a police source, Feighery flew his device over Courts 16 and 17, where no matches were being played. An earlier report by the New York Post says the arrest coincided with a match featuring top-seeded Serena Williams.
The police source, speaking by phone, said Feighery, 36, faces three charges, including reckless endangerment. Feighery did not immediately reply to an email request for comment.
Feighery’s website describes him as a cinematographer and camera operator who has worked on video projects involving entertainers like Lady Gaga and 50 Cent. His Facebook page includes a beach video shot from “my quadcopter” and a profile image that appears to be a photograph of New York City taken from the air:
The NYPD decision to arrest him provides further grist for the debate over the appropriate use of consumer drones, many of which weigh under 5 pounds and provide splendid opportunities for photography.
In the last year, the growing popularity of drones have given rise to a series of high profile incidents, including an assault at the beach and a tourist who crashed his drone into an iconic hot spring in Yellowstone National Park.
Drone supporters, however, say these are isolated incidents by irresponsible individuals and point to the many benefits that devices can provide. In recent months, for example, drone owners have located a missing 82-year-old man and obtained unique footage of the Napa earthquake and an explosion in Harlem.
The law for flying drones remains a grey area, as a result of foot-dragging by the FAA. Meanwhile, as the US Open arrest shows, city police forces can rely on local laws to address perceived safety threats from drones.