Above Sundance crowds, a photo-snapping drone takes flight | ParkRecord.com

Above Sundance crowds, a photo-snapping drone takes flight

Paparazzi are regulars in Park City during the Sundance Film Festival.

But during the opening days of the film festival, another sort of camera was in Park City.

The Park City Police Department received reports that a drone was in the air above Park City shooting photographs. Phil Kirk, a police captain, said the department received approximately six reports about drones flying in Park City. They were logged on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The drones were primarily seen above Main Street, he said. Police officers also saw a drone. Kirk said it is possible more than one company sent drones up in Park City.

Kirk said the police asked at least one of the companies not to fly the drones near crowds of people. The company complied. He said nobody was cited in the drone cases.

"Is it safe? We’re concerned it’s not," Kirk said.

He also said a business license is required if the drones are used for commercial purposes.

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The drone reports were the first Kirk could recall of their kind in Park City.

One of the companies in Park City during the first days of the festival was Salt Lake City-based Drones Etc. It is a drone retailer. Shawn Rowland, the owner of Drones Etc., said he brought three drones to Park City on Saturday. He wanted to take photos of the Main Street scene during Sundance.

He launched one of the drones close to the top of Main Street midmorning on Saturday. It reached a height of approximately 50 feet and stayed in the air for less than a minute, Rowland said.

"Immediately the Park City Police Department guys pulled up, had us bring it down," he said.

The drone shot an image of Main Street looking northbound. The tops of buildings like the Imperial Hotel, the Treasure Mountain Inn and the Star Hotel feature prominently in the image. Main Street at the time the photograph was taken does not appear to be busy compared to other points during the jammed opening weekend.

"People are smiling . . . People take pictures of it," Rowland said.

In a message, Rowland said a company that secured the services of his firm wanted Drones Etc. to "take ‘drone selfies’ or ‘dronies’ of some of their celebrities."

A firm called DJI manufactured the drone, which is part of the Inspire 1 line. According to DJI, the Inspire 1 weighs approximately 6.5 pounds and can fly to a maximum altitude of approximately 14,763 feet. Its maximum speed is approximately 49 mph, DJI says in online marketing material.

Rowland said federal laws allow drones to fly to 400 feet in altitude. He said he is frustrated the Police Department asked him to stop flying the drone without there being a City Hall law against the practice.

He said drones are safe, saying his drones have been involved in one accident. Rowland said the accident occurred approximately one year ago. The drone was destroyed, but nobody was injured and no other damage occurred, according to Rowland. He acknowledged that others have concerns about the safety, though.

"Until you’ve got some laws on the books . . .you need to balance citizen rights with those other concerns," Rowland said.