Flying a drone into Nashville's downtown fireworks is all fun and games — until someone emails the Federal Aviation Administration.
The agency's Nashville office confirmed two people sent complaints about a drone zipping around downtown on the Fourth of July, producing what became a viral video. Now the FAA is investigating the eye-catching flight.
The drone belongs to Nashville entrepreneur and app developer Robert Hartline. Told by The Tennessean of the investigation, Hartline was unconcerned.
"The reality is that somebody was much more likely to have an accident on the way to the show than for (the drone) to fall out the sky and land on them," he said this afternoon. "The technology is here, and it's going to take the FAA awhile to process how it's going to affect people."
While the FAA's struggles to regulate drones are well documented, it operates under longstanding rules for unmanned aircraft systems. Those include guidelines covering whether flights are for commercial use and how close they are to populated areas and airports, said Walter Bevan, manager of the agency's Nashville Flight Standards District Office.
It's unclear how long the investigation into Nashville's incident will take, and potential penalties include a warning or fine.
Hartline owns 12 area wireless stores and is developing Hytch, a carpooling app he promoted with some graphics at the front of the video he posted on YouTube. Adding those was an afterthought, he said, and it didn't make the drone trip a commercial one.
His drone is a Phantom 2 Vision+ valued at $1,300. Hartline said it wasn't actually in the middle of the fireworks — even though the video looks like it is.
Several people who saw the drone on July 4 commented on The Tennessean's Facebook page, most in support of Hartline but a few discussing the dangers and legal issues.
Flying drones in and around fireworks is becoming a national pastime, with videos showing up this year from West Palm Beach, Fla., New York and San Francisco.