Quadcopter owner threatened with confiscation

A Quadcopter owner and pilot was threatened with confiscation of his quadcopter recently while preparing to do some aerial photography of a friend riding his bike.  The situation occurred in a public park in Detroit, MI.

Officer’s approached the pilot, Jonathan Hair, as he was preparing to fly his quadcopter and begin filming his friend.   Johnathan began filming the officers using his cell phone and was told that he was not allowed to fly his quadcopter here.  Johnathan wasn’t aware of any current polices or regulations and questioned the officers about this and asked for proof, which they could not provide.   Johnathan remained calm, cool and respectful during the entire encounter as did the officers involved.

The officers escalated the issue to their supervisors. While waiting for the supervisors, the officers tried to get Johnathan’s ID, find out where his car was parked, and even questioned whether he had paid to enter the park or not.  Clearly the officers were fishing to find some other reason to arrest him or get him to leave.

Eventually, another officer, most likely a supervisor showed up and just flat out told Jonathan that there wasn’t a written policy or law, but it was a park policy that they were enforcing and that if he flew the quadcopter, it would be confiscated.  Apparantly, the officers and park administration are just making up rules on the fly.  The officer went so far as to make an analogy to the dog leash law, which is a written and publicly stated policy.

I guess if the officers decided they didn’t like the shirt you are wearing, they could just begin enforcing a policy against your shirt to get you to leave?  America and our freedom’s at their finest folks.  Thanks for filming this and posting it Jonathan.

Check out the video, and let us know in the comments what you think!


  1. The powers that be are seriously abusing their authority that was given to them.

  2. Thank you for posting this and sharing it.

  3. Actually, Jonathan was being a dick.

  4. Every city or county has some type of ordnance about flying RC aircraft in the parks or city limits. You as a citizen should know about these rules before you go and fly at a public park. The officer is in the correct by in forcing a park rule or ordnance, whether it’s a law or not. You should never just show up at a public park and expect that’s is your right to fly. If the city or county does not have an ordnance, it would be a good thing to contact the Parks director to make sure that it’s okay to do so. By moving forward and begging for forgiveness later is what’s going to get us all in trouble. Know the rules before hand and talk with the police when they show up to let them know you have been in contact with the parks direct for your actions.

  5. Unfortunately, there needs no regulation when it comes to “Public Safety” as they are “public safety officers”. They did raise a concern of the hazard of RC aircraft hitting someone.

    • So if I am at the beach and I see someone flying a Kite and they loose control of it and it comes down and hits someone we should enforce the policy that flying kites in public parks and beaches is also a safety hazard and should not be allowed. But wait there is more, we will need to stop flying Frisbee and throwing balls also.

  6. Wynn Ray is correct. The interests of public safety are the police’s concern. This is a perfectly valid and polite way of enforcing this law. If you are endangering others, you may be asked to stop. This is potentially a dangerous hobby. Arguing with the police about it will not help anybody: we have to work WITH law enforcement instead of making trouble.

  7. Have to say I’m afraid in this case the cops are right… The point about privacy is rubbish, however it’s a public park and he is clearly intending to fly it low and we’ll within 50 mtrs of people who may walk past, the pilot is not in control of these passers by. He does right to point out it is not a drone….. (this bloody Web site doesn’t do us any favours using the word drone either!!!). The cops rightly say any model aircraft would not be allowed. I’m in the uk and wouldn’t think about flying in similar parks.

  8. And calling the video ‘drone vs police’….come on! This whole thing just wreaks of immaturity. It’s cool to film a friend on a bike, I get that, but this video highlights the problem that ‘kids’ are buying these quadcopters, most likely with little or no previous rc experience and these people simply don’t think or act the way most rc plane / heli pilots do.

  9. Are you encouraging people to fly their copters in public parks, over the heads and property of others and to be upset when they are asked to stop? Ive been flying RC for 15 years…and its never really been ok to fly RC at public parks…just because we now have cameras on our aerial vehicles, does not mean they sky is ours to fly…it never has been….rights are not being taken away….how about my right to go to a park or festival without worry of things falling on my head? Is that not a worthwhile right? readjust…sincerely…an avid drone pilot

  10. While I agree that the officers were basically doing their jobs by preserving “public safety”, there is the issue that this “policy” was not documented. Every park or public place that has policies, directives, or regulations, in place, has them posted in some fashion. Either at the entrance to the location or available to the public in some other fashion, such as signage, online, pamphlets, etc. (Dogs must be on a leash, No alcohol, no glass containers, no parking on grass, no firearms, etc.)
    In this instance, it appears as though the officers decided that Jonathan flying his quad was dangerous based on their own judgement and not based on established and documented policy, regulation, or law.
    Without seeing the manner in which Jonathan was flying his quad, we can’t say whether he was being unsafe or not. Just going by the dialogue in the video it seems he is a responsible RC pilot with the safe operation of his aircraft in mind.
    Just as the FAA found out several weeks ago, you can’t enforce rules, regulations, or laws, that do not exist. So to tell him he can’t fly there, and to threaten him with confiscation of his equipment, without established/written policies, is not legal.
    And to address John’s comment on the issue of someone’s “right” to go somewhere “without worry of things falling on my head”. That’s not a “right” it’s an expectation. But that thought applies to anywhere. You can walk down the street in a major city with the expectation that you won’t be struck by something falling from a high-rise, but it may still happen. Likewise, you can walk in a park and be hit by a baseball, a football, a frisbee, someone on a bicycle, etc. Are you insinuating that those activities should be disallowed because of “public safety”?
    Flying in public parks is never a good idea, but it seems as though Jonathan selected an area that was mostly deserted and flew his aircraft accordingly. If he had been flying over people, or in a crowded area, than that would be a different story.
    And yes, I am an RC pilot with over 15 years experience.

  11. The quad guy is being a prick. Arguing with the police over this type of thing just shows how immature Johnathan really is. Next video, “stupid rc hobbiest crashes into mom pushing a baby csrt.

  12. Well hey if there wasn’t a rule, there certainly is now. Good job buddy. Things have changed so much lately. in 2006 I had to become a member of a radio flyers club In order to be able to show up and fly at our leisure and unattended at a designated fly field. I was part of 3 other clubs and all of them, funny enough, were located next to, or near airports. You had to be signed off on as a professional flyer and then were granted a license to fly in designated areas. Without getting any deeper, I think you can gather where this is going. Not that its even close to the same, Im just trying to help you gather a little insight. Hey at first, when I too wanted to fly real bad and I had to go through all this crap just to do so in a free country, it felt down right communist. I feel your pain, but this is the way it is. The cop was right. If my girl and I were in a tent and you cruised that quad by us, Id be pissed, LOL because most likely wed be doing something that is against the rules in a public park, and also posted in the books. HA! sorry we cant all win here pal.

    Now, today guys can just take flight… with cameras on board and do it where they please? Flying in public places or non-designated areas, whether your not flying over people heads has never been cool and has always bee against the rules. HA BUT AGAIN! in your defense, we couldn’t because ours were gas and could literally kill someone flying at speeds of….. depending on the guy and how much money he spent…. up to 60 mph. NOW, something like that could kill someone, guided or not. Now, in your defense whats the worse that could happen with that little thing compared to the 5-LB gas powered heli I once flew. So again I grant you this yours is nearly, nearly harmless, less of coarse the video camera on board….but again flying in certain areas has always been forbidden, its nothing new buddy.

    You will start to see in the near future, more and more bans showing up in the most ridiculous places. Places I too would love to fly. And responsible flying will NOT be the cause of these bans, hint hint. These quads all started off as survey helis for detecting cracks in our bridges and then moved onto real estate agents for property shots (stills). Now its anyone’s to have.

    Listen, I would think In a national park if your on a climb, lets say Half Dome in Yosemite, which by the way would be stellar shot by a quad… and your buddy’s wanted to film you with a quad and having the right permits or permissions just for that climb and that climb alone its justified. But I just don’t think strapping a camera on and flying around a public park, quiet or not is not kosher. Next thing you know they will be cruising next to you and your girlfriend sitting in a tent and yeeehaw! youtube here we come. Its times like this that I think officers like that should enforce the casual flyer unless he is there with a permit, or a justified action or cause that warrants an exciting shoot, something people would actually watch with the law knowing about it and you have a purpose other than filming a guy riding his bike, I mean how boring would that video be any damn way?

    Want to film something people will actually watch, capture guys crapping in their pants from thousand of feet above rocky terrain while you sit nicely perched on the top in your lounge chair, now thats worth filming. Doesn’t really matter, that quad will end up in your closet in 4-5 years anyway, so screw it go have fun while it still is.

    I just wanted you to know this flying in public areas and where ever you please has never been ok.


  13. Seems that the censors have gotten a hold of this story, it is now marked “private”.

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