2015-10-07 / Features

Slap On The Wrist For Drone Pilot

By Liz Goff
The Manhattan science teacher charged last week reckless endangerment after he piloted a drone that flew into empty seats at the Louis Armstrong Stadium during last month’s US Open Tennis Tournament was ordered last week to perform five days of community service.

David Verley, 24, told investigators he was using the drone to take photos of the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park at about 8:20 p.m. on September 4 when he lost control of the craft.

The drone buzzed over the Armstrong Stadium and plummeted into the empty seats during a second-round women’s singles match, causing a loud racket and a security scare that brought members of the FBI/NYPD Joint Terrorist Task Force and Queens police officials racing to the scene. Police and federal agents briefly halted action on the court while they investigated the incident.

Verley said he wandered around the park for more than two hours searching for the drone, and later learned from news reports and the Internet that it had crashed at the tennis stadium. He turned himself in to police a short while later and was initially charged with reckless endangerment, reckless operation of a drone and operating a drone in a New York City park outside a prescribed area.

“We were fortunate that no one was injured,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. “Drones cannot simply be considered children’s toys,” Brown said. “Those who engage in conduct of this nature will be held legally accountable for their actions. They will not be treated as children or as innocent hobbyists,” Brown declared.

Police sources said Verley is not the first person to face charges for piloting a drone over the US Open. Cops said a Yonkers man was arrested during the 2014 tennis tournament after he flew a drone just outside the grounds of the US Open.

“Recklessly operating a drone near, into or over a tennis center, an airport or other places where large groups of people assemble needlessly puts lives in danger,” Brown said.

Verley flew his drone just a stone throw from the tennis center, Citi Field and LaGuardia Airport, Brown said.

Verley silently accepted the sentence in Queens Criminal Court, where he was ordered to complete five days of community service. The judge told Verley the reckless endangerment charge would be erased from his record if he completed the sentence within time guidelines and stayed out of trouble for the next six months.

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