Brooklyn Heights

Cops nab ‘Peeping Drone’ operator in Brooklyn Heights

August 17, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Office workers and Brooklyn Heights residents were shocked on Thursday when they looked out of their high-rise windows and saw this drone peering in at them. Cops hunted down the drone operator and nabbed him on Friday. Photos by Mary Frost
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Cops nabbed the operator of a drone seen to be peering into the windows of high-rises in Brooklyn Heights last Thursday, alarming office workers and residents on Court and Montague streets.

NYPD spokesperson Sgt. Brendan Ryan told the Brooklyn Eagle on Friday that after conducting an investigation the police discovered that the “peeping” drone belonged to a real estate architect doing work at 189 Montague St., which is scheduled to be demolished.

“He was using it to take photos for his architectural work,” Sgt. Ryan said.

Cops issued a criminal court summons to the drone operator, who was not named, and vouchered the device. The operator is due to appear in court to answer charges under Public Safety Law 10-126, which covers “avigation in and over the city.”

The drone left a trail of disruption in Heights high-rises.

“I saw it from the corner of my eye,” said Alice Peters, business manager of EBrooklyn Media, which owns the Brooklyn Eagle and other newspapers.

The drone hovered just outside her 30th-floor office window at 16 Court St. “for just a second,” she said.

At first she thought it was a toy. “Then I saw the camera piece and I thought ‘That’s a little freaky.’ You don’t know what they’re capturing with their cameras.

“It could have been any of those people’s homes right there,” she said, pointing out the window to a nearby apartment building. “It’s an invasion of privacy.”

Eagle staffer Rick Buttacavoli said the experience was like “something out of War of the Worlds.”

But more troubling than the invasion of privacy was the fact that the drone was hovering over crowded rush-hour Montague Street, he said.

The Eagle’s cameras captured images of the unmanned aircraft hovering outside several other floors of 16 Court St. and swooping through the air over Montague Street near Court Street.

The drone operator was seen to be standing on the roof of 189 Montague St.The drone operator was seen to be standing on the roof of 189 Montague St., a now-vacant office building owned by the Treeline Companies. After several minutes, he brought the machine down.

The building management of 16 Court St. called the police after receiving complaints from tenants.

One complaint was called in after the drone hovered outside a suite of medical offices on the 27th floor, a building spokesperson said.

It also caused a commotion when it peered into windows of a law firm on the 26th floor.

In February, the FAA drafted new rules to regulate drones. These include the requirement that the drone operator obtain a license, remain in direct line of sight with the device, avoid operating the drone over bystanders and limit speeds to 100 miles per hour.

Thursday’s drone violated at least one of these proposed rules as it flew over the heads of the Montague Street crowds on the sidewalks below.

The Eagle’s report on the drone hit a nerve across the city.

On Friday, NBC’s Checkey Beckford interviewed Eagle reporters for her live report. ABC also followed up with their own report, as did Telemundo and numerous blogs and online magazines.

A call to Treeline management was not answered by press time.

Photos by Mary Frost


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