Drone over Grayslake fireworks show confounds crowds, police

Frank Abderholden
fabderholden@stmedianetwork.com | @abderholden
July 1 12:04 p.m.

Unmanned aircraft

The Federal Aviation Administration website lists the following do’s and don’ts for flying unmanned aircraft according to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012: • Do fly a model aircraft/UAS at the local model aircraft club, take lessons and learn to fly safely, contact the airport or control tower when flying within five miles of the airport and last, “Do fly a model aircraft for personal enjoyment.”

The “Don’ts” include flying near manned aircraft, flying beyond line of sight of the operator, flying an aircraft weighing more than 55 lbs. unless it’s certified by an aeromodeling community-based organization, flying contrary to your aeromodeling community-based safety guidelines and flying model aircraft for payment or commercial purposes. On June 23, the FAA issued a guidance for model aircraft operators.

“We want people who fly model aircraft for recreation to enjoy their hobby – but to enjoy it safely,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox said.

The guidance came because of “recent incidents involving the reckless use of unmanned model aircraft near airports and involving large crowds of people.” The statement said the law is clear that the FAA may take enforcement action against model aircraft operators who operate their aircraft in a manner that endangers the safety of the national airspace system. In the notice, the FAA explains that this enforcement authority is designed to protect users of the airspace as well as people and property on the ground.

You can visit the Agency’s Aviation Safety Hotline website or call 1-866-835-5322, Option 4.

If you thought you saw a drone at the fireworks show in Central Park in Grayslake last Saturday night you are in good company.

Police Chief Phil Perlini also spotted the unidentified flying object along with other officers around 9:20 p.m., just before the fireworks began in the park.

“It was definitely up there,” he said. “It had a big red light on the bottom of it.”

Sold online and at hobby stores, toy drones look like small, four-blade helicopters and are controlled from the ground.

The Grayslake Police Department doesn’t have one and Perlini is pretty sure the park district doesn’t have one either.

“It came out of nowhere and we started joking, ‘Hey look a UFO!” Perlini said.

It was spotted to the north of the park, then it moved to the south side “and then I lost track of it,” he said, adding that it moved pretty fast and was very high up.

Perlini predicted it flew a few hundred feet high, well above water tower height. It stayed on one side of the park about 10 minutes before moving south for another five minutes before leaving the area.

“We were looking at it and couldn’t figure it out,” he said.

Noting the darkness, Perlini said all you could see was that the light was moving and it was not the space station, which often is a highlight of community astronomy nights where organizers point out the space station moving across the sky.

“It probably had a battery or a small gas engine so it couldn’t stay long,” he said.

But they also could not hear any engine noise from it, said Perlini, realizing that discounted his first theory that maybe it was a gas-powered helicopter. He guessed it was a drone of some sort.

“There were no strobes, just a big red light, you could just see the red light. It stood out, it was bright,” he said. “I’m not 100 percent sure what the laws are about flying them other than near an airport. We were just standing there and it was like, “What the heck is that?’ and we started making UFO jokes.”

The fireworks were put on by the Grayslake Park District, which did not immediately return a call to see if the fireworks company may have been video taping some of their work.

The village declined to comment and the police department did not receive any complaints or queries about the flying object. The Lake County Radio Controlled Club, founded in 1973, shows pictures of planes and helicopters, but no drones. The club was not immediately available for comment.

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Unmanned aircraft

The Federal Aviation Administration website lists the following do’s and don’ts for flying unmanned aircraft according to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012: • Do fly a model aircraft/UAS at the local model aircraft club, take lessons and learn to fly safely, contact the airport or control tower when flying within five miles of the airport and last, “Do fly a model aircraft for personal enjoyment.”

The “Don’ts” include flying near manned aircraft, flying beyond line of sight of the operator, flying an aircraft weighing more than 55 lbs. unless it’s certified by an aeromodeling community-based organization, flying contrary to your aeromodeling community-based safety guidelines and flying model aircraft for payment or commercial purposes. On June 23, the FAA issued a guidance for model aircraft operators.

“We want people who fly model aircraft for recreation to enjoy their hobby – but to enjoy it safely,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox said.

The guidance came because of “recent incidents involving the reckless use of unmanned model aircraft near airports and involving large crowds of people.” The statement said the law is clear that the FAA may take enforcement action against model aircraft operators who operate their aircraft in a manner that endangers the safety of the national airspace system. In the notice, the FAA explains that this enforcement authority is designed to protect users of the airspace as well as people and property on the ground.

You can visit the Agency’s Aviation Safety Hotline website or call 1-866-835-5322, Option 4.

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