Pedro Rivera claims officers had no right to interfere with his drone

Journalist sues police after being told to stop using remote-control drone copter

A US journalist is suing his local police force after officers demanded he stop recording video footage using a drone at the scene of a car accident.

Pedro Rivera, a journalist and part-time employee of Connecticut-based TV station WFSB, was suspended from work for one week after the incident on February 1st, when police detained him and ordered him to leave the area before reporting him to his employer.

However, Rivera argues he wasn’t breaking any laws by using the remote-control copter device to record police activity, according to the lawsuit, as reported by The Courant. He claims officers violated his civil rights.

"Officers have the right to stop a person if they feel they are up to no good," said his lawyer, Norm Pattis. "They don’t have the right to stop a person if they disagree with what they’re doing, if no law prohibits what they are doing.

"That’s the line we believe they are crossing."

Hartford police did not charge Rivera with a crime, but a police report states that Federal Aviation Administration rules prohibit the use of unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes (which includes journalism). What complicates matters is that Rivera argues he was not working on the day of the incident, so did not need approval to fly his drone.

Brendan Schulman, a New York attorney who specialises in drone laws, added: "Arguably, there’s no restriction today on the use of small drones for commercial purposes. 

"Because of the semantics and the use of the word ‘drone,’ which is associated with controversial military action overseas, the technology is being treated differently here even though the technology will bring many commercial and humanitarian benefits to many industries, including journalism," he said. "Independent of whether we need regulations for the use of drones, we certainly don’t need beat cops making them up as they go along," said Pattis.

The news comes just days after a French teenager was sent to court after being accused of ‘endangering the lives of others’ for using a drone to fly around the city of Nancy and record video footage, some of which took the drone high above buildings and civilians.

You can see this footage below:

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