A fisherman at Pacific Beach in San Diego appeared to take issue with a drone filming him and others casting their lines off a pier last week.
So he let his line fly upward toward the drone owned the YouTube user Tice Ledbetter. The fisherman’s hook snagged the drone, but he didn’t pull it down.
When Ledbetter recovered the vehicle, he had to untangle some of the fishing line wound around one of the rotors.
Watch the footage (Content warning: some strong language in text within the video):
“What a jerk,” Ledbetter wrote.
Others in the comments though countered that they felt he, as the drone operator, was the one in the wrong here.
It is at least a misdemeanor to fly a glider over public property in San Diego, but this ordinance does not mention drones. From a statewide standpoint, however, it is illegal and a punishable offense to take drone footage of someone in an situation where they would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Those on the public pier could not have this expectation though.
San Diego specifically has a vested interest in local and federal rules for unmanned aerial vehicles as some of the top UAV manufacturers are located in the city.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s rules specify that drones may not “fly over people, except those directly involved with the flight,” and the drone in this video does appear to stay off to the sides of the pier, not flying above people.
Hobbyist drones have been a hot topic lately after UAVs like these were cited for interfering with the efforts of firefighters in California.
The U.S. Forest Service tallied 13 wildfires in which suspected drones interfered with firefighting aircraft this year — 11 since late June — up from four fires last year and only scattered incidents before. Last month, the sighting of five drones in a wildfire that closed Interstate 15 in Southern California and destroyed numerous vehicles grounded crews for 20 minutes as flames spread.
Firefighting agencies have introduced public service announcements to warn drone hobbyists, while lawmakers are seeking stiffer penalties for interfering.
“When you can’t support firefighters on the ground, fires get bigger,” said Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “It’s significant, and it’s a huge issue.”
Jason Thrasher was one such helicopter pilot last year when he was forced to make a hard left thanks to a quadrotor drone only 10 feet from his windshield about 500 feet above ground.
“If that drone came through my windshield, I have no idea what could have happened,” Thrasher said in a phone interview. “If that drone hits my tail rotor, for sure it’s going to be catastrophic.”
Twenty members of Congress from California asked the Federal Aviation Administration last month to consider a requirement for drone makers to include technology that aims to prevent operators from interfering with first responders. One bill in the California Legislature would raise fines and introduce jail time for anyone who impedes firefighters, and another would grant immunity to first responders who destroy interfering drones.
Under FAA guidelines, drone hobbyists should fly no higher than 400 feet, stay clear of stadiums and people, and avoid flying within five miles of airports. During wildfires and other emergencies, the FAA imposes temporary restrictions.
Software, including a product from Pepperdine’s McNeal named AirMap, can alert operators to FAA-restricted areas. But, some firefighting officials say, wildfires spread so quickly and unpredictably that there may be a dangerous lag before flight restrictions are in place.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.