Man Arrested for Flying His Camera Drone Over Crash Site, Allegedly Refused to Land


There are two sides to every story, but in the case of Ohio copy machine repairman and aerial videography hobbyist Kele Stanley, his side is drastically different from that of the police who arrested him for flying his camera drone over the site of a car crash.

To hear the police tell it, Stanley was told several times to bring his quadcopter down so that a medical helicopter could land and help the injured persons. But Stanley combats that claim with a very straightforward statement of his own, “I’m not an idiot.”

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Stanley claims he would have brought down the copter right away had he been told why. As it was, he says he was only told about the Care Flight helicopter after he had already brought down his drone not once, but twice, and he didn’t fly it again after that.


As of right now, the case is very much a “he said she said” affair, but many aerial photography enthusiasts are watching it play out very carefully. Cases like this one and the story of the camera copter that supposedly hit a triathlete in the head in Australia could have legal implications that will affect everybody.

Connecticut lawyer and actual helicopter pilot Peter Sachs told the Dispatch that the truth will, inevitably come out… for better or worse where the drone community is concerned. “If he did do something wrong, it should come out,” says Sachs. “And if he didn’t, that story needs to be told, too. Drones have an unfair, bad connotation surrounding them.”

Perhaps the first step is to stop calling them drones… but the term has become so commonplace that alternatives are often overlooked. To that end, we’ll do a little poll in the comments. What word would you like us (and the photo community at large) to use instead? Tell us what you think below.

(via The Columbus Dispatch)

Image credits: Drone by Flying Eye and CareFlight by Highway Patrol Images

  • etr

    While that may be true, you miss my point. By including a few simple words of explanation, it comes across as a reasonable request that is quickly followed rather than an order that without a reason seems to violate his rights as a photographer. Now they both have to go before a judge and it becomes this “he said she said” thing that they mentioned in the article.

  • Birty

    I have a UAV which I refer to as a “Demonic Overlord” if anyone asks. Most folk don’t ask again :)

  • cb


  • Ken Elliott

    ^^^ THIS. RC = radio control. Copter = helicopter with one or more rotors. Quadcopter is a 4 rotor helicopter.

  • Leif Sikorski

    It’s already bad enough that they had to ask him ….looks like he didn’t really thought about what he’s doing. Flying a drone across a crash site is just stupid and disrespectful.

  • firekiller05

    Your wrong. Flying by waypoints is not autonomous. It’s auto pilot. When i tell a Drone to take off in richmond, fly to DC and take photos of the white house. it decides how to get their. that’s a drone… its a SciFi term the media decided to use because its menacing and inhuman. the tech isn’t here yet. you have a RPA with autopilot.

  • Sam Merkel

    I’m a snowboard photographer and my buddy that I ride and shoot with is both an ariel RC hobbyist and a cinematographer. Whenever we film with one of his rigs we refer to them as a “quadcopter”, “hexcopter”, “quad,” “hex,” “copter,” or “heli” (depending on which of his rigs we take out.) I think something like that is much friendlier than “drone.”

  • Matt

    BS, they are public servants not overloards. If they act like jerks they need to find another job. There is nothing wrong with acting civil. This particular case there was absolutely no reason that they could not have take two extra seconds and communicated more info to the guy. Instead, it looks like they acted like what you endorse and made the situation worse.

  • Matt

    I agree that there should be operating parameters, but the reality its that these are small and their impact in a failure situation is not life threating. Not nearly in the same class as a real plane coming down. Or even an ultralight.
    Who wants to pay the extra taxes to expand the FAA to lookout for drones? These things are cheap and plentiful. You are better off setting manufacturing restrictions on altitude, weight and range. Kind of like they do for ultralights and experimental aircraft.
    Personally I could never bring myself to photograph crash sites. But, not sure if it really is a problem other than being creepy.

  • Matt

    Ah NO. It could be the douchebags were the police. This is not a police state. The founding fathers did not say “hey, we do not have powerful enough cops, lets go start a new country”.
    Maybe the police need a lesson in dealing with the public. Maybe, but maybe the drone operator needs a decent fine.

  • Matt

    Thats the problem with gun nuts, they think they are above the law becasue they have a gun.
    BTW I do own a couple of firearms, but I’m a responsible person and not a douchebag.

  • superduckz

    This comment is so naive that I can only assume the you must not know or interact with many police officers… that or you are one.

  • Alex G Hillman

    R/C remote photoghraphy…. problem solved

  • mikefordphotography

    Reading the comments makes me sad… the solution to all problems is not licensing and certification (though insurance is good personal choice)! I contend that there isn’t actually a system wide problem… how many people have actually been hurt? or spied on? or even bothered? As always, what isn’t understood by the mainstream is deemed a threat. Aberrational events are treated as if they are everyday problems… just for fun consider how different this story would be if the guy was flying a kite. The problem would have been the same. The police still wouldn’t need to explain themselves. The danger of a helicopter landing would still be real. So what is actually the story here?

  • Roland Delhomme

    This back and forth is going to continue until something real ugly happens. If you endanger my aircraft in flight, with anything, for any reason, you are guilty of interfering with a flight crew member, and will meet lots of nice people who’ll clothe and feed you for a very long time with free room and board. It’s that simple.
    Expect to see some kind of system to spike R/C and drone freqs if this gets further out of hand; as always, irresponsible operators ruin a good thing for everyone else, since common sense and responsibility always take a back seat to selfish pursuits and self justifying arguments.

  • Joe

    RCAV easy to pronounce as well: R cav

  • crm114org

    No, I am not wrong. You are. You just want to act like the word police because the media annoys you. The word drone in common usage is entirely applicable to this context. See below. (easy enough to confirm)



    a. an unmanned aircraft or ship that can navigate autonomously, without human control or beyond line of sight: the GPS of a US Spy Drone (note the word “or”)

    b. (loosely) any unmanned aircraft or ship that is guided remotely; a radio controlled drone

    Or, if you like Wikipedia (and I’m sure you dont) look up UAV – An Unmanned Arial Vehicle (UAV) commonly known as drone, is an aircraft without a human pilot aboard. Its flight is controlled either autonomously or by the remote control of a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle.

  • John Whitby

    The correct term is a UAV or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, the term drone came about because these vehicles resembled and sounded like worker bees known as ‘drones’. The term drone is just a nickname, whether it is a civilian or military operated version.

  • K S B

    Do you see kids accidentally fly their bikes into helicopters, airplanes? I can actually see these drones accidentally fly into one and kill hundreds of people. License? Yes.

  • K S B

    Do you see kids accidentally fly their bikes into helicopters, airplanes? I can actually see these drones accidentally fly into one and kill hundreds of people. License? Yes.

  • dw

    Mobile Aerial Photo Unit (MAPU)

  • webweave

    In a couple of years these remote controlled aerial cameras (RCAC?) will be too small and quiet to have any valid safety claims and they’ll be so inexpensive and maneuverable that the operators can either ditch them or pilot them unobserved

  • Travis Johansen

    Absolutely anything except drone. Doesn’t matter. RC copter, helicopter, octacopter, quadcopter – whether technically right or not – they all imply hobbyist intentions.

    Drones are the things people connect with Iraq / Military / dropping and killing people. Radio controlled things are cool toys we all grew up with – and always wanted something bigger and faster – and it’s just that much cooler that we can fly things with cameras as adults.

    Anything but Drones.

  • Chunk Basker

    Only takes one idiot to ruin it for us all.

  • Chunk Basker

    Gun owners don’t think they’re above the law at all. They just don’t want their rights stomped on by gun control nuts who want to ignore the constitution.
    Fraid all those laws you want enforced on guns will only effect those who follow the law, and last I checked, most people that own guns legally follow the laws already.
    Criminals don’t care about laws so whatever progress you do gain, will amount to a pile of beans.

    Anyhow, thats what most gun “nuts” hate.