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Don't say anything if you see this -- just ask
I thought about writing on the continued use of firecrackers well past the Fourth of July, but then I read about the two Manhattan men arrested after they flew a drone too close to an NYPD chopper.
You see, I fly drones, too.
I've been flying things my entire life. It started with little Estes Model Rockets, a hobby I picked up from my father, and eventually morphed into helicopters and quadcopters (drones) with cameras, like the one belonging to the men arrested last week after flying theirs 800 feet from police helicopter near the George Washington Bridge.
In elementary school, I launched a small rocket that was supposed to take a photograph of the ground in a field close to where I lived. A gust of wind suddenly caught the parachute and carried it over the woods. I assumed it got stuck in some trees so I went home.
Turns out it flew over the trees and landed on the lap of someone sitting in his back yard. He was very nice, and when he figured out who owned the missing rocket, he returned it.
Then, the first time I flew a drone I lost control of it. It flew higher than I anticipated and it landed next to someone sitting in his back yard. Luckily, that guy was nice about it, too.
Now that drones are more popular, some people are freaking out about them becoming popular. After 9/11, my model hobby started to draw complaints from some people. Understandable: They were concerned people living in a time when vigilance is encouraged. They saw something -- and said something. Officers would ask me to leave the area -- not understanding that what I was doing was legal and safe.
Yes, there are irresponsible people, like the guy arrested in October after he crashed his drone near Grand Central Terminal, almost hitting a guy below. But for the most part, people who fly things are responsible -- and nice.
The National Association of Rocketry and the Academy of Model Aeronautics have guidelines for safe use of model rockets/airplanes and drones. Anyone who flies or launches models, should check it out.
And if you see someone (like me) flying something around and have a question, ask! It's easy to just assume that someone flying a drone is up to no good.
We're not. We're just having some good, clean fun.