Drone Spotted Dangerously Close To Downtown Fireworks

Posted at 4:58 PM, Jul 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-05 20:29:22-04

A growing number of drone sightings over crowded downtown Nashville events has prompted officials with the Metro Nashville Police Department to warn pilots that they could end up with a citation if they aren't following FAA rules.

During Tuesday night's "Let Freedom Sing" event on Broadway, more than 240,000 people crammed along the banks of the Cumberland River to watch the city's annual fireworks display, but as fireworks were set off from Nissan Stadium, the flashing red and green lights of a drone were also spotted dangerously close to the fireworks.

"Flying through fireworks is a stupid idea. How much of a chance would you be willing to take to get an image like that? These are not toys. They’re like flying blenders," says Al Tompkins with the Poynter Institute.

Tompkins has instructed more than 300 journalists nationwide on proper safety procedures surrounding drone piloting. Looking at video of Tuesday night's incident, his biggest concern was for those in the crowd watching.

"They should be criminally charged. It is endangerment. There’s no excuse for it," he said. 

It's also illegal for anyone to pilot a drone at night unless they have special permission from the FAA, and anyone piloting a drone must always maintain it in their line of sight while the aircraft is airborne.

Still though, Tompkins called them a valuable tool as long as people know how to use them correctly.

"You should actually get some training and learn about air space" he said.

Metro Police said 20-year-old Samuel Dobbs was cited for reckless endangerment for flying the drone over a large crowd in the area of 1st Avenue and Gay Street during the fireworks display. Authorities said Dobbs was cited after he landed the drone within the crowd.