Police officials say the sighting of a personal drone in restricted Los Angles International Airport air space and another over City Hall support the need to clarify civilian drone use laws.
In the first incident on Aug. 4, police said a personal drone was spotted by a Canadian jetliner hovering about 10 miles east of LAX at 4,000 feet – an altitude outside Federal Aviation Administration guidelines for hobbyists with drones and and also within the airport's Class B air space.
To fly that high and close to LAX brings with it a host of responsibilities, including having a transponder on the aircraft and two-way communication with air traffic controllers, federal officials said.
Los Angeles police learned of the drone when the airline pilot asked air traffic controllers if it was a police drone. The LAPD’s two drones are locked away in a federal building and have not been used.
In the second incident, employees on the LAPD's 10th floor on the northwest side of the building said they looked out their window Aug. 14 to see a drone hovering outside their window.
After some in the office waved at it and snapped pictures, it flew across the street to City Hall and got close to the rooftop antennae.
While authorities say the drone spotted near LAX violated FAA regulations, the one downtown does not appear to have violated any laws.
There are plenty of restrictions on law enforcement's use of drones and a permitting process for commercial operators. But not so for public users, something police have had to come to terms with recently.
“Everyone is going to suffer because of a reckless pilot,” said LAPD Air Support Capt. Gary Walters. “You don’t expect to see one at 1,000 feet when you’re doing 130 mph going to an emergency call to the Coliseum.”
The department is talking with the FAA and local lawmakers about what can be done to bring existing laws up to date so they apply to drones, officials said.