A recent America Strong flyover by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels in Detroit, Michigan on Tuesday, May 12 could have ended in a midair collision when a remotely piloted camera drone flew dangerously close to the six F/A-18 Hornets as they flew over buildings in the city’s downtown area.
The video began to surface on social media Wednesday, May 12, 2020, the day after the Blue Angel’s America Strong flyover in Detroit. The original video posted to YouTube included a number of different angles with the camera drone appearing momentarily in some of the shots. The final shot shows the Blue Angel six-aircraft wedge formation flying extremely close to the camera drone as they pass overhead at speed. The left-wing, likely the #5 aircraft in the formation, is very close to the camera drone in the shot. Most aerial drones are equipped with wide-angle lenses, making the proximity of the drone to the Blue Angel formation seen in the video extremely close.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established specific rules for safe camera drone operation. One requirement listed on the faa.gov website specifies, “Do not operate your drone in a careless or reckless manner.” Drone activities for commercial use, such as real estate survey and listing work, require a license from the FAA. Operators must pass an FAA test and obtain a “Part 107” drone operation certification. Basic drone operation rules also include not operating a drone near other aircraft. The video of the Blue Angels shot from the drone seems to be a clear violation of this specification.
The drone video has been attributed to a social media account with the designation “@GIOLUCIA” that appears in the opening titles of the video. A Google search on this led to accounts on Instagram and Facebook owned by a person named Giovanni Lucia. While it has not been confirmed by the FAA or law enforcement that any person named Giovanni Lucia is connected with the video, all social media attributed to the credit shown in the beginning of the video link to this name. Other social media posts from a page attributed to the same person included aerial photos of downtown Detroit at night, when drone operation should be prohibited by the FAA. One Facebook post included aerial photos of downtown Detroit from February 18, 2017 with the caption, “Might of broke a couple FAA regulations today…”
That said it’s not the first time a drone is flown dangerously close to the Blue Angels.
The Blue Angels flew a circuit of Detroit between 11:47 AM and 11:51 AM in Detroit on Tuesday. No official mention of the incident has appeared in Blue Angels or U.S. Navy media. One reliable source told TheAviationist.com that, “The FAA and the Blues are aware of the video.”