SALT LAKE CITY — A drone stuck near the top of the LDS temple in Draper has put a tiny spotlight on the intersection of drone pilots, private entities, cities and the federal government.
Drew Armstrong often flies drones — or unmanned aerial vehicles — on the outskirts of temple grounds to photograph LDS temples. He said he was flying near the perimeter of the Draper Utah Temple grounds on June 26, when someone who identified himself as the temple’s site manager approached him. The man asked him to fly over and get a visual of where a drone was stuck near the top of the temple’s steeple, Armstrong said. It is presumed that the drone, which has been sitting near the top of the temple for weeks, had crashed.
“I had the site manager looking over my shoulder wanting to see what was on my iPad because we were trying to figure out how to get the other drone off,” Armstrong said.
He emphasized that he normally doesn’t fly that close to temples and only did so at the site manager’s request.
“They are worried about somebody damaging the church’s property, and I don’t blame them,” he said.
The stuck drone illustrates the potential problems that can happen as more drones take to the skies and inexperienced pilots push the limits, as well what private property owners and cities can and cannot require when it comes to regulating drones.
Drone pilots typically fall into one of two Federal Aviation Administration categories: commercial or hobbyist. Drone pilots who fly commercially must be certified by the FAA and follow regulations, like agreeing to not fly over people or at night unless they receive waivers from the FAA. Hobbyist drone pilots, on the other hand, are encouraged to fly safely and in accordance with a drone community-based set of safety guidelines. Both types operate largely under a self-policing, honor system.