It is not a great time to be a drone pilot in Seattle right now.
On the heels of a drone crashing into Seattle’s Space Needle just before New Year’s Eve, the pilot of a wayward drone was convicted Friday of reckless endangerment after his machine hit a 25-year-old woman in 2015.
The drone debacle occurred during the 2015 Seattle Pride Parade, when Paul M. Skinner of Oak Harbor, Wash. lost control of his DJI Phantom 3, according to court documents, and it hit the Safeco Plaza building in downtown Seattle. The machine then came careening to the ground and struck the woman, concussing her and knocking her out cold.
The specific charge of “mishandling a drone in public” had never been used before, according to the Seattle City Attorney’s office. The city defines the charge like this: “A person is guilty of reckless endangerment when he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another person.”
Skinner is looking at a maximum penalty of up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine when he is sentenced next month.
In the Space Needle incident, the drone recorded more than 3 minutes of its fateful flight before crashing into the iconic Seattle structure while workers were preparing for the annual T-Mobile New Year’s at the Needle fireworks display. The crash occurred when the drone began accelerating toward the very top of the Needle where several pyro technicians were working 575 feet above the ground. The drone crashed hard into the Needle and footage continued to roll as startled workers gathered around it.