Unmanned Aircraft Crashes in Love Field Airspace - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Unmanned Aircraft Crashes in Love Field Airspace

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    Unmanned Aircraft Crashes in Love Field Airspace

    The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating after an unmanned aircraft crashed Tuesday near Dallas Love Field Airport. (Published Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014)

    The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating after an unmanned aircraft crashed Tuesday near Dallas Love Field Airport.

    Roman Molina did not know what to make of the loud and large object he spotted falling from the sky in West Dallas.

    "We saw the big shadow coming through really fast. And it was throwing a lot of smoke," Molina said.

    The roughly five-foot wide, radio-controlled flying wing crashed on the property of Alvarez Pallets in the 4700 block of Alexandria Lane.

    "We got really scared because we thought it was a bomb or some type of terrorist-like thing," Molina said. "You never know in these times. You never know what's gonna happen, you know? Things can happen."

    Dallas police officers who responded to Molina's 911 call confiscated the device, according to witnesses.

    The FAA is conducting an investigation, according to agency spokesperson Lynn Lunsford, because the location of the crash is within the controlled airspace of Dallas Love Field Airport.

    Anyone operating an unmanned aircraft within controlled airspace must first communicate with the control tower or risk a violation, Lunsford said.

    The penalty for an airspace violation depends upon the circumstances, according to Lunsford, but it can carry a monetary civil penalty up to $10,000 if the violation involves reckless operation or endangering public safety.

    Although the aircraft was unfamiliar to the witnesses who watched it crash, it is quite popular for those who enjoy the hobby of flying radio-controlled planes.

    "We see them everyday," said Brian Howard, co-owner of HobbyTown USA off Walnut Hill Lane at U.S. Highway 75 in Dallas.

    Howard said the flying wing aircraft are made from Styrofoam and can be highly customized.

    The one that crashed Tuesday appeared to have been outfitted with at least $700 worth of equipment, according to Howard, including a First Person View (FPV) camera mounted on the front which would allow the operator to see a live picture from the front of the aircraft.

    The operator was likely within a one-and-a-half mile range away from the aircraft when it crashed, according to Howard, who added that the crash could likely have been caused by some kind of signal interference between the operator and the unit.

    "You don't want somebody that's never flown before getting out with something like this, jumping the gun and taking off and something like this happening," Howard said.

    The owner, whose name Dallas police did not release, was able to track down his plane, albeit too late.

    "They came asking for that airplane," Molina said, describing the aircraft's owner who showed up about 90 minutes after the crash.

    "[The owner] said, 'It's here?' And I said, 'No it's not here. It's already gone. Police, they took it.' And they said, 'Wow! I'm in trouble,'" Molina said.