A 27-year old resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jonathan Kolleh, was arrested and spent 14 hours in a holding cell last week for flying his drone in the vicinity of the National Football League (NFL) Draft. Kolleh began using drones for his filmmaking last year after purchasing a DJI drone. While shooting his latest project, “Straight Outta Philly,” capturing images near the Schuylkill River Boardwalk, a bridge over the river that splits Center City and West Philadelphia and Franklin’s Paine Skatepark near the Philadelphia Museum of Art, he was approached by a police officer. The police officer informed Kolleh that he was not allowed to fly drones ‘at this event’ –he was not aware of any restrictions. The event that Kolleh was unaware of was the NFL Draft held on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Drones were banned from inside the fan event held at the draft, but Kolleh was outside the perimeter. Kolleh was questioned by the police officer ( e.g, what is your name, what are you filming, is the drone registered, etc.). After a counter-terrorism unit showed up, Kolleh was eventually handcuffed.
Kolleh was transported to the police station and charged with reckless endangerment. He was eventually released, but he did not receive his drone back however. The good news for Kolleh–when local law enforcement submitted the charged for reckless endangerment to the District Attorney’s office, the charge was rejected so there are no pending charges against Kolleh.
The problem is: The rules are confusing and often change. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued press releases saying drones couldn’t be used before previous major Philadelphia events, like the Papal visit and the Democratic National Convention. But none were issued before the NFL Draft. And Kolleh was flying over a skate park, not the NFL draft. For now, Kolleh seems to be off the hook but drone-less. The lesson here is to check the FAA’s B4UFly mobile app along with local and state laws, and fly safely so you can steer clear of any issues with the FAA or local law enforcement.