With six drone crashes on the bridge in the last five years, a top official posits, “By the grace of God, it hasn’t hit a car, bicyclist or pedestrian.”
SFist has been shaking our finger at you readers for years, admonishing you to not fly your drones around the Golden Gate Bridge. The vast majority of you non-drone owners seem to comprehend this poses an enormous risk, considering the high winds and unreliable wireless connection inherent to the area that could spell highly unpredictable trouble for motorists and pedestrians. But lo! The Chronicle reports there have been six drone crashes on the Golden Gate Bridge since the practice was outlawed in 2014, and while there haven’t been injuries yet, there have been some awfully close calls.
“By the grace of God, it hasn’t hit a car, bicyclist or pedestrian,” Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District CEO Denis Mulligan, citing one drone that lost its signal and came within a hair of hitting two pedestrians. “We’re not trying to stifle creativity,” he added, “We’re concerned with all aspects of safety.”
Yes there is signage telling people not to fly drones around the bridge, but the bridge is of course a tempting aerial target. The drone ban enforcement falls on the Golden Gate National Recreation Area park rangers. “We document about 20 reports per year, and suspect that unreported illegal use is much higher than this,” Nationals Parks spokesperson Charles Strickfaden told the Chron. “In these cases U.S. Park Rangers and U.S. Park Police actively respond to visitor reports, and attempt to contact the operator.”
Reams of these photos and videos have ended up on YouTube and the Insta, and rangers say yes, they do chase the posters down. “Officers contacted website owners that they can be prosecuted for illegal drone activity and associated commercial filming without a permit,” Strickfaden said.
The Federal Aviation Administration has the sole ability to “geofence” an area to prevent drone presence, and thus far have not. They’re considering a proposed drone ID system which can track the whereabouts and location history of each unit. Since we have seen drones disrupt helicopter rescues and nearly injure farmer’s market shoppers, we’ll hope for some drone regulation before a Golden Gate done daredevil takes things a bridge too far.
Screenshot: Parker Hou via YouTube