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Police arrest photographer for flying drone over US Open

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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:

Daniel Feighery FB cover

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.

5 Responses to “Police arrest photographer for flying drone over US Open”

  1. Like any other event, get a permit from the event organizer and you’ll be good to go. I’d be willing to bet there were plenty of photographers on the ground inside the event. This guy was basically crashing a private event. I think an arrest might have been a little harsh, but there should definitely be a fine and a warning.

  2. The US Open, where thousands of people go each day to enjoy watching professional tennis, and this clown decides this is the place to fly a drone. Not reckless endangerment, I beg to differ. One thing is for certain, it’s without doubt poor judgement, and it’s incidents like this that ruin it for everyone. Our freedom? 9/11 took away our freedom, the Boston Marathon incident took away our freedom, the police over-reacting, I don’t think so, when you consider all the crazy shit that goes on in this world. It’s a case of total lack of common sense, end of story.

  3. Peter Shankman

    Drone flyer here as well as someone at the Open Wednesday Night. The security was beyond massive – I was told they were on “highest alert” that night, whatever that means. As I was watching Serena play, it occurred to me how beautiful some altitude shots could look with my drone. Then I looked at the 40 or so SWAT team members lining the front of the court, and thought, “Yeah, maybe not so much.”

    NYPD et al has a “shoot it down now and worry about the legality of doing that later” approach. In my opinion, it simply wasn’t worth it to be flying it.

    Interestingly enough though, he never would have been allowed onto the grounds with it, which tells me he was flying it from a location outside the entrance to the tennis compound itself, which is dangerous – Without line of site, those things do tend to crash often.

    End of the day, not the best decision from the pilot/photographer to decide and fly it there, and he can pretty much kiss it goodbye – He’ll never get it back from impound in one piece.

  4. Flying Fox

    if he was hovering over an open court, it wasn’t reckless endangerment and shows the over-criminalization rampant in this issue, not to mention the usual spin and f.u.d. in regards to the overwhelming majority of press reports to get eyeballs.