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

  • jm

    UAV or UAS or RC copter (or plane if its one of those)

  • DisqusWriter

    RC copter/plane. I feel more comfortable with either of those terms (I don’t fly or own either.)

  • Colin Peddle

    Sadly I believe we’re quickly approaching a time when all non-commercial use drones will be banned without previous permission or we’ll see crazy restrictions put in place for all future drone-copters, such as limited range and fly time.

  • pxlated

    I like RC rather than the other two – They still imply evil to the general public.

  • gun nut who is nuts

    How about “practise target”?

  • firekiller05

    Simple a Drone is an aircraft that can navigate to a target do a specific thing and come back without constant human control. These are RC Quad helicopters if i stop telling it what to do it will crash into the ground. Nothing more. stop calling them drones this isn’t star trek…. Just follow what the Air Force Calls them; Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).

  • Neil Katz

    How about ‘Unmanned PhotoCopter’ or ‘UPC’?

  • Brian Gray

    The awkward thing is, regardless of whether or not this guy is ‘an idiot’ or not (not everyone is), the police need to assure themselves that the operator of the drone will actually land the device before the medi-vac heli arrives. To wait with him until the heli actually arrives is simply a waste of their time. If the airspace around a scene needs to be cleared, drone operators need to stop being selfish and comply with instructions given.
    This type of self regulation will only last so long. Eventually the repeated appearance of these type of stories in the press WILL result in laws being past – and then we all lose out.

  • Richard Brown

    Or licenses for specific use.

  • Tim Vechik

    What about RCP – Remote Controlled Photography? It works for both stills and video (think principal photography for filming) and is nice and short. Shorter, even, than drones. Just as short as UAV, but without the immediate thoughts of WMD’s.

  • ModernLife

    RC quadcopter

  • ShepSanders

    As drones (or UAV’s,RPA’s or whatever they’re going to be called) are only starting to be used, I’m afraid users are going to have to err on the side of caution and obey any instructions given by police to avoid laws being passed that restrict their usefulness.

  • Rob S

    RPV – Remotely Piloted Vehicle

  • Syncro87

    They are remote operated aircraft and they need to be operated by the rules of the airspace they are in. If you don’t know what that means, there’s a good explanation of the problem.

  • Jan ‘Archee’ Bloch

    RC Octo.. or RC Hexo.. or RC Quad.. depends on blades.. Drones and UAV.. that’s a scary thing.. though I’m not surprised about the story.. 15 years ago we were grounded by FAA for flying RC using GPS and Autopilot… go figure..

  • Fullstop


  • Beaugrand_RTMC

    It’s an RC copter, not a “drone.”

  • ryfter

    UAV is the technical term I have always heard. Unfortunately, drone also works, is simpler than saying UAV, and gets the point across. The biggest problem, is there a negative connotation to the word, as well.

  • Jamie Brightmore

    Descriptive is best: Quadcopter, Hexacopter, Octocopter…

  • Ellen Atkin


  • superduckz

    Where the “drone community” is concerned? Is there any “community” that is immune to a-holes? Like say politics or law enforcement for examples? Sounds like many “authorities” are on a hair trigger to paint that community with one broad brush.

  • Denise Chamberlain

    R.U.S.s…Rodents of Unusual Size.

  • sloview

    Police do not like to be asked “why”.

  • Cao

    I like the word ‘drone’ and it’s very accurate in this situation, rather
    than changing the name, I’d be more happy with changing the
    hollywoodian portrayal of it.

  • Jamie Brightmore

    Rather than outright banning, proficiency tests + mandatory insurance would probably be a good thing going forward (unless you are lucky enough to have your own land to play around in). Sure, many are competent pilots and put other people’s safety first, but many are not, and do reckless things that jeopardise the community. No one would feel safe letting someone ride a scooter, motorcycle, or car around other road users without sufficient proficiency or insurance.

    Not citing this case in particular, but with the growing popularity and availability of multi-rotor copters, obviously these situations will continue to crop up more frequently and it’s only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured and drastic action is taken by the authorities.

  • Jamie Brightmore

    Here in the UK a license by the CAA already exists, for allowing commercial application of UAV’s. I’ve just booked on a course to obtain one myself.

  • OtterMatt

    “Photocopter.” And we can call the genre “Coptography”.

    Also, he was arrested after landing twice and not flying again? Yeah, people are often hauled in for questioning after complying with a peace officer. I smell a rat in his story.

  • OtterMatt

    All of my this.

  • Tom

    I think the important think that was left out of this story is that he was not charged with a misdemeanor, but a FELONY. This drone stuff is getting serious.

  • Tripper

    As someone who has been significantly involved in R/C and photography, I always thought “drones” was a ridiculous term for these quad (and otherwise) copters. Let’s call them what they are…radio-controlled copters. “Drones” are what the military uses, and they are much more complex than a simple R/C rig.

  • etr

    How difficult is it for an officer to simply say “Sir, we need to clear the airspace for the incoming medical helicopter” rather than “get your drone out of here” with no other explanation? Be polite, get a positive result and everyone is happy.

  • PRL

    Flying Photo Thingamajigs would suffice.

  • PRL

    Patent pending =)

  • Federico Montemurro

    Drone is the new dog. Get a Drone.

  • crm114org

    Wrong. I have one of these and you can program them to go do a completely autonomous flight and sit there hands off and wait for it to return. The “drone” is a DJI Phantom 2 and the thing that allows hands fre flying is called the DJI Ground Station (another $200 or so). Granted, the brains that allow you to do this is on the ground and not actually part of the aircraft, but is is essentially 100% hands free.

  • dan110024

    Call them what they’ve been called by people in the hobby since the day they were put together. Quadcopter, octocopter, etc. Copter is better than the word drone, but if you’re going to use the correct terminology, actually use the correct name.

  • dan110024

    The guy deserves to get the book thrown at him for not obeying police orders. Just another one of these big headed douchebags who think they’re above the police. This is the exact reason you listen to what the police are saying, whether you think you know better or not.

  • K S B

    That’s actually a great idea. I would have the govt require licenses for ALL uses. Operating a vehicle, no matter how small it is, that can hurt another person should require one. I rather not have 10 yr-olds manning these things without proper training/licenses.

  • jrconner

    Drones not operated by first responders should stay the hell away from crash sites. There needs to be a minimum stand off distance, and minimum and maximum altitudes, so that drones do not endanger rescue aircraft and people on the ground. I’d like to think that’s common sense, but it’s not, so the FAA will have to regulate the activity, and regulate it very strictly.

  • Guest

    Drones make excellent target practice.

  • battlepriest

    The police don’t have to explain why they give an order. You do what they say or face arrest. Period.

  • battlepriest

    Yes, for endangering the lives of the people awaiting rescue.

  • battlepriest

    Whether accurate or not, “drones” is what they are referred to by most civilians. It can also be argued that these small copters ARE drones, since they are unmanned aircraft.

  • battlepriest

    Good luck with forcing people to use an unfamiliar word, when “drone” is perfectly acceptible.

  • Damodara das

    Call them UAVs of course. That is what they really are. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

  • bc

    call it multicopter

  • MC Squared Tony Curtis

    How about DFA? Death From Above

  • common

    I would like to totally agree, although where would be the line between controlling a one of these devices which we feel needs a license, and kids controlling remote control cars/planes? Need a license for them to? what about riding a peddle bike? or riding a horse. Where does the crappy politics of ‘treat everything the same’ stop and the necessity of common-sense take over.

  • Nick

    Really the most correct term is multirotor. It’s what is used by us enthusiasts. Most of these multirotors don’t have expensive flight controllers and hence they don’t have the capability to fly themselves. They sometimes have the capability to fly home but that isn’t exactly a “drone”. A just call them multirotors.

  • Hans

    Does anyone know what that model is that carries a DSLR? I want to get one. But for serious aerial photography not that rubbish paparazzi video stuff.