Drone piloted by Amazon employee buzzes Space Needle observation deck

Drone piloted by Amazon employee buzzes Space Needle observation deck
The Space Needle in Seattle, where a drone alarmed some visitors on the observation deck this week. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

An Amazon employee was flying the wayward drone that buzzed by Seattle's Space Needle on Tuesday, panicking some tourists who were walking along the iconic tower's observation deck, a police spokesman told the Los Angeles Times.

The employee was not working in any official capacity for Amazon when the drone took flight Tuesday night, but with the online giant seeking permission to use drones to deliver packages to customers, the flyby drew some snickers.


"...still waiting for our package to arrive :)" read a tweet from the Space Needle's verified account this week.

Seattle police responded about 9:30 p.m., after visitors unnerved by the foot-and-a-half-wide craft contacted Space Needle security, according to Det. Drew Fowler.
Officers quickly found the man piloting the drone in a room at a nearby hotel.

"He was totally cooperative, no malice," Fowler said. "He wasn't trying to do anything wrong, he was just trying to get some shots and inadvertently scared a few people and violated some FAA regulations."

Unmanned aircraft aren't supposed to fly above 400 feet or over populated areas. The Space Needle's observation deck is about 550 feet high, Fowler said.

Fowler said police have no plans to bring charges against the man, who does not live in Seattle.

Many of the guests on the observation deck were actually fans of the flyby, Fowler said.

"I saw some of the video that he shot and some of the people are waving and think it's really cool," he said.

The Space Needle incident was the latest drone drama for Seattle. Last month, a Seattle woman noticed a drone flying by her window and contacted her building manager, who called police.

Investigators later determined that the drone was taking landscape shots for a private contractor, not spying on the woman.

The Seattle Police Department also attempted to gain the right to use drones last year, but that move was ultimately shot down by the City Council.

Calls to a spokesman for Amazon were not immediately returned.

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