Drone encounters (Karens and Kevins and Police, oh my...)

I was just wondering if anyone has any drone encounters they’d like to relay, that might help others here in the DP community.

I have 3 instances, involving police and security guards, that I thought would provide some useful information…

Back during the early days of the pandemic, I decided to go out and shoot some of the local area attractions areas. During that day I shot Universal Lowes Portofino Resort and Volcano Bay. Portofino’s went without a hitch and they even used our image on their social and promotional sites (with our permission and rights).

I also shot Volcano Bay that day, but just video. I decided to go back a year later, while Valcano Bay was still without customers.

I did some runs and got the pictures I was looking for. Instead of using our smaller Autel Evo, I used our big 'ol Phantom 4 Pro. Apparently, it garners a LOT more attention (obviously), as I was swarmed by security and eventually police after my flight. Mind you, I was across the street from the resort in a public parking lot.

What ensued was a really informative discussion on why Universal doesn’t allow drones around their “attractions”, not necessarily the resort. It has a lot to do with drones possibly falling within the “bubble” of the attractions, causing malfunctions in the equipment and danger to the park-goers. I totally got that, even though my flight wasn’t over the water routes and there were no people on the grounds. After an extremely long and detailed discussion with the 1st security guard group, then their supervisors, I was able to compile much-needed information for local drone operators, which I shared with the Orlando Drone FB Group.

In regard to the police officers. As it turns out when drones are spotted over Volcano Bay, the police are immediately called in. The four that pulled up with full body armor and weapons were actually quite nice. After security left, they told me they “have to show up to these things” as there are sometimes confrontations between security and drone operators. Crazy. I politely offered to show them my 107 and P4P+ registration, of which they told me not to worry about.

Because of kindly speaking with Security and Law Enforcement instead of pushing my rights as a drone operator, I learned a bit, got some new contacts, and educated Universal’s security staff and Orlando Police on some misconceptions they had.

Sadly, on a sidenote, a well-known drone operator in South Florida took a similar shot to mine, this month, with a TON of people on the grounds. Not only did he not get the 4th degree, but Volcano Bay asked to use his pic in their social media campaign… It’s all good though, as I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to now, based on the information Security told me.

For those that have never been to Orlando, Icon Park is an area with a large, London-like Ferris wheel, called the Wheel at Icon Park. There are shops, restaurants, museums, etc. down there. It’s an Insta-lovers dream area and highly photographed.

I had been wanting to get a shot of the front of the wheel, from the perspective of a drone, for some time now. I thought a lot about it, taking into consideration the best launch points, road activity, people in the vicinity, etc.

I decided on launching from the top of Icon Parks parking garage. Avoiding people and only flying over trees and foliage I was able to get a few decent shots.

After I landed (8 minutes after launch and shoot), I was surrounded by 3 Security personnel. Although technically, I was in the right, so I thought, I was informed that flying from the Icon Parking Garage is not permitted and to vacate the area immediately. I had no problem with this, as I already had my shots. What I didn’t see, until that exact moment, were all the drone-prohibited signs along the top of the garage AND the one right in front of my SUV, hahaha. Wow. Security was right though because Icon Park owns the parking garage and can dictate the activities that are allowed on their property.

Security told me they were trying to get put into law somewhere that flying drones near any attraction would be illegal or get an NFZ like Disney around much of Orlando. Have fun with that one. Anyway, we had a nice discussion and everyone parted ways without incident. If I wrongly tried to assert my rights, it could have gone off terribly.

Somewhere I really like to shoot in downtown Orlando. Although not a massive downtown area, the skyline and buildings are nice.

I was employed by a client to get some newer footage of the downtown area recently and I thought I’d start my shoot off from a familiar area, the top of a parking garage in a more questionable area of downtown. See, if I shoot from street level, the locals are apt to mug you, the parking garage it is.

The last time I shot there was probably back in the beginning of 2021. Forward to October of 2022 and apparently, a LOT has changed with the parking garage ownership. It turns out to be owned now by the University of Central Florida, instead of city-owned parking. Hm, didn’t notice that while I was left-turning up 8 floors of garage.

I no sooner got the drone in the air and I was approached by a UCF Campus Police officer. At first she was very intimidating looking. She was quite sturdy and strong, lol. However, I took my normal approach (not being overrighteous and know-it-all). I apologized for the trespass, as I was not aware UCF now owns it. We joked about how dangerous the rest of the area was and how this was the best place for the footage I needed. It turns out she is going for her 107 so she could get footage of the games at their arena.

We exchanged numbers and vowed to keep in touch with each other. Another drone buddy gained.

Anyway, those were just some of my personal interactions in the past year or so. I’m interested to see what others have had to deal with in this community.