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DJI Inspire 1 drone crashes into Seattle’s Space Needle (forward to 2-minute mark for collision)
Video footage confirms that a drone aircraft flew directly at and crashed into the Space Needle’s utmost viewing platform on New Year’s Eve.
The craft, which was subsequently recovered by the staff, was handed over to the Seattle Police Department on Tuesday.
Space Needle representative Dave Mandapat has provided Ars Technica video recovered from the drone, a camera-mounted DJI Inspire 1.
The three-minute clip, which includes a few fade-to-black edits, shows the perspective of a craft ascending from an area east of the Seattle Center district (without identifying footage of a takeoff or origin point), then hovering above and around the Space Needle’s top platform while pyrotechnic experts arranged and worked on the tower’s annual New Year’s fireworks show.
Roughly two minutes into the video, the drone shifts perspective to aim its camera view directly at the tower’s topmost platform, at which point it apparently flies at an incredibly high speed until ramming into a spotlight.
The collision took place mere feet away from both the pyrotechnic experts and their various arrays of electronics and fireworks equipment.
Mandapat tells Ars that Needle staffers did not report the incident immediately due to the workload of putting on a New Year’s Eve fireworks show, which was subsequently followed by staffers taking time off for the New Year’s holiday. Mandapat says the staff contacted the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday, January 9, whose officials instructed Space Needle staffers to file a police report the following day.
Seattle Police Detective Mark Jamieson has forwarded that report to Ars, which confirms that the drone is currently “placed in evidence” at the Seattle Police Department.
“I’m not sure if this [case] will be assigned for [SPD] followup or not,” Jamieson says to Ars. “It may just be the FAA that handles this.
There was no reported damage or injuries, fortunately.”
Mandapat confirms that the recovered drone did not contain footage of its exact takeoff moment, though he estimates that the takeoff happened at one of the hotels near the tourist-friendly Space Needle on Seattle’s Taylor Avenue. “They must have been 700 to 800 feet above the Needle to get that shot,” Mandapat says.
Announced plans for a national drone registry, which might help mitigate incidents such as this one, have not received a formal follow-up since statements made by the FAA in October of last year.
Seattle in particular has faced multiple drone-related crashes in recent history.
Listing image by Space Needle