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Sean Riddle from Jersey City, New Jersey, was arrested on 4 February in New York City in what appears to be a misguided, accidental, and inconsequential reenactment of the tragic events of 11 September, 2001. The 27-year-old was flying his drone around over the city to take picture of the Manhattan skyline when he accidentally crashed the unmanned machine into the Empire State Building, according to the New York City Police Department. No loss of life or injury was reported.
The drone collided with the skyscraper’s 40th floor, before tumbling down to a lower level, presumed to be on the 35th floor. Following the crash, Riddle decided to retrieve the drone, and attempted to ask building’s security guards for help. Instead, the guards alerted the police of the incident, and Riddle was arrested. The police did not clarify whether the drone was retrieved.
Riddle was charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, and illegally navigating an aircraft over the city.
This particular incident was a harmless accident, but it could have turned out much, much worse. There is no need to compare to that ghastly episode almost 15 years ago, when much larger, manned aircraft collided with buildings in the New York skyline. But a relatively small drone loaded with explosives could certainly inflict enough damage. It’s enough to consider the 2010 Austin, Texas suicide attack. A disgruntled attacker flew his single-engine Piper Dakota light aircraft into Building I of the Echelon office complex, killing himself and Internal Revenue Service manager Vernon Hunter. Thirteen others were injured. Even a small plane can do damage, and a small explosive-laden UAV can do more.