Firefighters blast drone watching them work

Drone owner John Thompson isn’t getting much sympathy since he posted this video on Facebook showing firefighters trying to shoot down his drone.

The 12-minute video showed the immediate aftermath of a house fire in Coldenham in upstate New York, when they tried to blast it out of the sky with water.

Thompson said after the dousing, the camera wouldn’t record.

He got little comfort on Facebook, where the increasing debate on privacy and drones was in full view.

“People need to stop getting their kicks out of someone’s loss. You may have the right to film, but others have a right to privacy. Film/ photograph your own business and not that of others,” said one.

  • Jeff
  • Gary F

    At some point a drone may get mistaken for a clay pigeon, duck or quail. Just sayin’.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    Seeing it listed as “Upstate NY” I immediately figured that this was a volunteer fire department. (My brother is a “lifer” with the FD back home.) I double checked just to be certain and it is. I know from my brother’s experiences that house fires, structure fires in general, are the most dangerous fires they have to battle. You never know what’s in the house and what effect it will have on the firefighters. The last thing they need is the distraction of a drone flying around. What if the pilot lost control of the drone and it fell out of the sky onto one of the firefighters? While it might not directly injure the firefighter it might disrupt the operation enough to put that firefighter or others in danger. Would the pilot take responsibility for what happened?

    • Thomas Mercier

      I’m all for asking the pilot to be responsible for any actual damage caused by their activity. Potential damage is a difficult area for me to define. The only actual defined damage in this case was fire fighters who distracted themselves from their duties to damage personal property.
      Debate the legality/morality of the pilot’s actions but don’t forget to debate the legality/morality of the fire fighters’ actions as well.

      • Jack Ungerleider

        My point is not about damage its about respecting the volunteers who put their lives and health on the line to protect other people’s property.

        • Count de Money Fisto

          what makes filming disrespectful? if he was standing at a safe distance with a regular camera would you expect them to fire water at him still?

          • Jack Ungerleider

            Watch the entire 14 minutes and you’ll see that up to the 10:30 mark he keeps the drone at a higher altitude and there appears to be no response from the firefighters. At about 10:30 he moves in to get a better view and the firefighters start looking up at the drone. Just before the first spray of water, from a firefighter in the house is sprayed, 4 members of the FD are seen conferring behind the house. One just came out the house and appears to be wearing an air tank and mask. I wasn’t there I can only assume that they were discussing what was left to be done. One of the firefighters has a white helmet on and that usually denotes the Chief or and Asst. Chief. It may be that as the drone got in closer it was enough of an annoyance that somebody yelled out “Get that thing out of here!” and the response was to spray water at it.

            To answer your question, no I don’t think they would spray water at a photographer that was on the ground in an area where they could interact with them and keep the photographer safe and the firefighters safe. In fact I know that when my brother was involved with a large structure fire, a friend of the FD was on the scene recording video of the whole process. He knew where to setup and the FD crew was aware of his presence. If the pilot had approached the FD and coordinated with them he might have been able to get better footage and not get his drone water cannoned.

  • MrE85

    I wonder if they would do the same to TV news helicopter…

    • Paul

      To me, this comparison is akin to a bug and a bird. A quad copter capable of flying a camera is a large, loud, mostly annoying low flying RC aircraft. A helicopter on the other hand has obvious intent and is no where near the distraction.

      • MrE85

        “A helicopter on the other hand has obvious intent and is no where near the distraction.” Have you ever seen TV news helicopters covering a “high speed chase” in California?
        Sooner or later, some local television news producer is going to realize that a quadcopter can get their station images and angles no other outlet can match, and quicker.
        When the drone is owned and operated by Channel 8, what then?

        • Paul

          Not sure how this relates to the firefighter’s attempt at spraying down the quadcopter.

          However, to your question, a helicopter has better area coverage and isn’t limited to 400 ft AGL for high speed chases versus a RC quadcopter; I don’t see how these correlate.

        • One of the interesting elements of this is how the FAA is going to incorporate these things into our airspace system. For aircraft, you can’t fly within 500 feet of a structure. If these are now to be considered aircraft then this sort of scenario violates the existing airspace regulations. Will the regulation apply to quadcopters?

          • MrE85

            There is clearly a lot we don’t know about how these things are going to be used (and abused). In the meanwhile, people will find a way to use them.