Massachsetts man hit, injured by drone calls lack of regulations ‘vexing’

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, May 27, 2015

MARBLEHEAD, Mass. — As parade-goer Scot Yount stood watching the Memorial Day parade Monday, he noticed Steven Callahan flying a drone nearby.

Yount began talking with Callahan about what model the drone was. Yount thought the drone seemed “really stable” as it flew over the parade route. Soon after, Yount handed his 1-year-old daughter to his wife and went to stand against a nearby building as the parade ended.

That was when the drone crashed into the building and hit him as it fell to the ground.

Police were quickly called to the scene.

“My initial thought was: let’s not get excited about this; I’m fine,” said Yount. “But then someone said what if I’d still been holding my daughter and it had hit her, and I’m like, ‘well, that would be different.’”

Although that thought gave him pause, his injury was minor. He didn’t want to press charges. He and the woman whose shoulder was hit after the drone bounced off Yount’s neck both turned down offers of medical treatment.

Marblehead Police Chief Robert Picariello explained that the Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t require permits for flying drones. As a result, local police are limited in what they can do to penalize Callahan — or prevent these incidents in the future.

“My understanding is that if it’s a recreational thing, then it’s limited to what we can do to regulate it, if at all,” said Picariello.

After being hit, Yount learned firsthand how intense the debate is about this lack of regulation. He said that when he was hit, people nearby were quick to cry foul against Callahan and demand punishment.

Yount, who has investigated using drones for jobs for his commercial production company 1t Productions, personally supports the idea of establishing certification guidelines — possibly licensing — to enable oversight and training.

According to a police report, Callahan told the responding officer that he has flown the drone numerous times without incident. He said this instance was poor judgment and he won’t fly it over the town again. Both Yount and the police said that Callahan was apologetic and embarrassed about what had happened.

Callahan could not be reached for additional comment.

“I think he probably won’t do that again,” said Yount. “But people have said if not him, then maybe it will be someone else. So if no legislation comes to be from the FAA, somebody else gets hurt. It’s vexing. It makes you think the FAA needs to get moving.”

Ostuni writes for the Salem (Mass.) News.