The 20-year-old man pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment and received a 364-day suspended sentence in Seattle Municipal Court. He was ordered not to operate drones and pay a fine.
A 20-year-old Pasco man won’t serve any jail time for crashing a drone onto the roof of the Space Needle on New Year’s Eve 2016, but he’s been ordered by a Seattle Municipal judge to forfeit the aircraft, according to court records.
Cole Kelley pleaded guilty Tuesday to a gross misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment, acknowledging he “flew a drone in a manner that caused a likelihood of harm to persons or property,” court records say.
He received a 364-day suspended sentence, was fined $250 and ordered not to operate drones, the records say.
Kelley was piloting the drone when it hit the Space Needle around 2 p.m. Dec. 31, 2016, while half-a-dozen pyrotechnicians were prepping for the annual New Year’s Eve fireworks display. The crash was captured in a video by the drone’s recording device, but didn’t damage the Space Needle.
The drone footage shows a panoramic view of Seattle and the waterfront while the drone hovers around the Space Needle, before gaining speed and crashing into the roof.
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The drone, a DJI Inspire 1, was turned over to Seattle police, who alerted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Police accused Kelley of violating FAA rules since he flew the drone above 400 feet.
“One of the drone’s spinning blades was dangerously near wiring from one of the [pyrotechnics] boxes, one motor was well wrapped up in the strap, one blade had shattered, and the drone itself was kicking around threatening the wiring of the pyrotechnic devices,” a news release from the Seattle City Attorney’s Office said at the time.
The release did not say whether any of the pyrotechnicians were injured during the incident, but says that “simply being struck from this size of drone” could harm someone.
According to information provided by the drone’s manufacturer to police, the drone weighs almost 7 pounds and can fly almost 50 mph.
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story, which includes information from Times archives.