If you look up "drones" on the NYC.gov website, you'll learn that the city wants you to call 911 whenever you see a drone in the air: "Drones are more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and are illegal to fly in New York City." Unfortunately for one NJ man, he didn't see that during his Internet searches, and now he's got an arrest record for his foolish drone flying in Midtown Manhattan, where he crashed his toy into the Empire State Building.
Sean Riddle was nabbed last month after his drone crashed on the 6th floor of the landmark skyscraper. Riddle told the NY Times that he was creating a video to raise money for the University of Kentucky's charity for children with cancer.
The video had a plot: A man is trying to get to an event at a bar in Manhattan. He takes a helicopter over the city. The pilot tells him that to get to the bar on time, he should put on a parachute and jump. Mr. Riddle needed to film the descent from the man’s point of view, with the ground rushing toward the camera.
This called for a drone. Mr. Riddle went on Amazon and bought an Ionic 6-Axis Quadcopter Drone with a camera for $69.99. He flew it in his apartment. He said he looked up laws for using drones on Google and, satisfied he was out of the forbidden zone around airports, packed the drone in a duffel bag and took the train to Midtown Manhattan.
“It wasn’t the best idea,” Mr. Riddle said, “but I figured I had it in me.”
He saw some police officers standing near Macy’s and approached them. He told them he wanted to fly the drone straight up and let it descend. He said an officer replied, “Sounds O.K. to me.”
Oops! February 4th was a windy day and the drone hit the Empire State Building a few times before ended up on a landing. Riddle then asked security if he could get his drone, leading to his arrest.
In the ensuing weeks, Riddle insisted that he was just oblivious the law:
— Sean Nivin Riddle (@SeanRiddle12) February 6, 2016
In the plea deal, Riddle, 28, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct; plus he will pay a $200 fine and complete two days of community service. A prosecutor said, "The people are making this offer because no one was injured as a result of the defendant’s actions and luckily, no one was close to being injured." Also, his honesty in asking about the drone resulted in a lighter sentence.