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Police asked if I flew my drone over a Power Plant

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Clipper707, Sep 30, 2014.

  1. Clipper707

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    I flew 4 times on Sunday, early morning. On my first flight, I may have flown over a power plant. All flights were from the same launch point, across the street from the plant in a parking lot for a public open area.

    The power plant is no longer operational and was partially dismantled earlier this year. The plant produced electricity by burning oil. It is still a major landmark in this small town.

    Flight 1: P2V+ 8 minute flight. This is the only flight that went in the direction of the plant. Apparently, the power plant security guard claims a drone flew over the wall and over plant property around this time.

    Flight 2: I flew a second flight with the P2V+. After landing, I completely packed the P2V+ system in its rucksack.

    Flight 3: Phantom 1 FPV flight, with goggles. Three spectators stop to watch.

    Flight 4: Phantom 1 line-of-sight flight. Just prior to lift-off, a police SUV pulled into the power plant’s lot across the street and parked facing me. My buddy asked if I was still going to fly. I launched and we let the spectators check out the FPV goggles.

    About 6 minutes into the flight, the police dismounted their vehicle and walked over. I invited the officers to look through the goggles, which they did. They were impressed and interested in the Phantom. I then told them I needed a few seconds to land the drone before talking to them further.

    They asked the usual questions about price and flight duration. They were professional, polite and unintimidating. One of them noted a subdued US flag patch on my rucksack and asked if I was military. I told him I spent 13 years in the Marine Corps.

    They said the security guard at the power plant had called about a drone flying overhead. They left to talk to the guard.

    They came back several minutes later and one officer asked me for ID. I handed him my driver’s license. He verified my address, asked for the name of my employer, my company address and phone number, and my license plate number.

    I heard my name come back on the radio with a lot of law enforcement 10-codes, so I figured he was verifying all the information he had asked for.

    The other officer came over and they told me I could fly all I want on this side of the street, but the power plant was a sensitive area.

    “Being military, you can understand why there might be certain areas where people might be sensitive about drones overhead,” he told me. I agreed.

    Then he asked point blank if I had flown my drone over the wall.

    I answered, “I did fly near there, so probably.” I kept a bit of “question mark” in my tone.

    They were cool with that answer and told me I could fly all I wanted, but not to fly over the power plant.

    They got into their black & white and left. I loaded up my birds in the car and ended up following them back towards the center of town. They turned off the main road before I did, and my buddy says one of the officers gave a thumbs-up to us from the passenger window.

    So here are my hypothetical questions:

    Suppose I were to check the video on the SD card, and find that I indeed had flown over power plant property, did I break any laws? Is the airspace over a power plant restricted? Where might one look for this information?

    And suppose the footage on the video was actually interesting enough to get some views after it was posted on YouTube. Suppose it’s not too farfetched such a video would generate interest in this little town.

    Knowing the police have all of my information, would it be risky to post such a video?

    Hypothetically speaking, of course.
     
  2. Damon

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    You would be a **** fool to post it after what you have described. Just accept the fact that you caught a break and don't press your luck.

    Hypothetically speaking, of course. ;)
     
  3. Meta4

    Meta4 Moderator
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    It's a decommissioned oil-burning power station. Is there really anything "sensitive" to see?
    It's visible from publicly accessible land and a detailed view can almost certainly can bee seen clearly on Google Earth.
    Hard to imagine you can see anything "sensitive" that anyone interested could find out easily for themselves without breaking any laws or exciting paranoid security guards.

    Sometimes people get carried away with their heightened security consciousness.
    Reminds me of a time when I had to do an environmental management plan for a small methane gas powered generator at a landfill. The local authority client was happy with my report except they felt I should have included a section to cover the possibility of terrorist attack - on a generator the size of a truck engine on their crummy landfill!!
    I didn't tell them but my thoughts were that it wasn't an environmental issue and really by the time terrorists get around to putting that on their hit list, we'll have a lot more to worry about.
     
  4. locoworks

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    maybe it wasn't just a power plant and producing power was just a cover? :shock: . conspiracy aside though, you could fly just outside the boundary of the place and look in from a few hundred feet up so not technically be flying over the place.
     
  5. DrD

    DrD

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    Be on the alert and be sure to notify the security guard -- report sighting any general aviation traffic that fly over the location, especially, if you see any UFO's flitting about there. You can never be too cautious when it comes to decommissioned power plants. :lol:
     
  6. Ohary

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    No doubt it is carelessness like this that will result in new laws and restrictions on the use of drones. We all need to use our heads where we fly. When in doubt don't take it out.
     
  7. Meta4

    Meta4 Moderator
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    Really?
    Pilots can't be expected to know when the over active imagination and paranoia of concerned citizens will cause them to unnecessarily call the police.
    Is that carelessness and is it going to force new laws and restrictions?
     
    SilverStone641 likes this.
  8. Fyod

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    I bet the guard called in a UFO sighting.
     
  9. DrD

    DrD

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    There already are plenty of laws and restrictions. Needless to say, there will be many more. With or without basis, real or imagined, flights like the op described won't influence the lawmaking, they will occur by mere presence. It's sad reality.
     
  10. N017RW

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    Agreed. :roll:
     
  11. DBeard

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    Consider the perspective of those wishing to keep the power plant secure. Sighting a UAS nearby, it seems prudent to ensure it is nothing nefarious. Having discovered it was innocuous a polite request was issued that you not fly over the plant. I think this was a very cool way to handle a pretty sensitive issue, personally.

    Your compliance was probably key in being hassled less than usual.
     
  12. rrmccabe

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    +1

    I honestly would be interested in the legality of this. Not arguing as its a losing battle but not being a military installation or airport I wonder what their reasoning is. What is different about flying over a decommissioned plant compared to your neighbors house, a Target Store or police station for that matter?
     
  13. Suwaneeguy

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    First, contact Peter Sachs at dronelawjournal.com.
    Give him the precise location of the plant.

    Where I used to live as a child, there were rumors that a certain oil refinery had a missile silo in it.
    A few years ago, it was totally demolished.
    A friend of mine asked someone he knew who would know the answer asked if that refinery actually did have a missile silo.
    "Oh yeah, we removed that one last year."
    If powerplants like this one have something "sensitive" and top secret, those would be the first things to be removed.

    There are no fly zone maps available on line. If the site is not marked, then you're free to fly.
    But, no fly zones pertain only to FAA licensed aircraft. Hobby remote control aircraft are not restricted.

    As for the cops asking for your employer's information, that they have no business knowing.
    That's one question I've never been asked before.
    I think that if I am asked, I will just simply respond with, "I work for the US Department of Defense. Anything else you want to know is classified.".

    As for the video. POST IT!
    Get a free email address from mail.com.
    Use a fake name, sign up and let the bastards try and find you.
    Oh yeah, they already know you right?

    Would be interesting to know where this power plant is.
     
  14. Happyflyer

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    You more than likely took the best action and did not tick off the police. As for the plant, maybe they have and know of some serious contamination to the soil and want to keep it as quiet as they can. Thinking you can/could zoom in and find what they are trying to hide.
     
  15. p2pv

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    Why is it that this forum is the only forum people ever report being messed with by the police flying their UAV. I call BS on most all of these claims. You can fly your UAV wherever you want. There are NO laws preventing that. Just stupid a** policies.

    I own two Phantom 2's, Phantom Vision, FC40, and I just picked up a Storm Drone 6 about a week ago.

    All my DJI UAV's have well over 400 flights combined. The newly acquired Storm 6 has 20 flights on it. I have flown them in every possible situation accept bad weather. Public land. Private property. I have never had a problem with the police or anyone. Memorial Park in Houston, Texas July 4th. I flew my P2 three feet from a police car and hovered above it, beside it, and flew all around it. The officer smiled and drove off. There aren't any laws here in Texas, (yet).

    The only time I was approached by the police, "how much and where can I get one? Thanks, enjoy your day. Thanks, you too officer."

    I think some people just need or want some attention. These type of post, "like this one I'm responding to and my own reply are useless." You all should just delete them.
     
  16. Happyflyer

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    Several other posters here have stated there are laws in Texas. Maybe you should check and see if they are all wrong, or not?
     
  17. DBeard

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    You are misinformed. Texas law on UAS is the most restrictive in the country.

    http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/scanned/83ccrs/hb0912.pdf
     
  18. p2pv

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    This law is concerned only with capturing images. So it doesn't affect any rules, regulations, or laws concerning flying.

    You can fly where you want to in Texas!!!!!
     
  19. DBeard

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  20. GoodnNuff

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    Except that here in the Seattle area such stories often make the news.
    A quick Google search also shows stories of drones across several national media sources.
    Guess it's not just this forum.