Drone crash cuts power to 1,600 PG&E customers in Mountain View and forces library evacuation, cops hunt white-haired man

The apparent perpetrator of an expensive and disruptive drone crash left the scene in a hatchback matching the color of his hair.

So say Mountain View city officials in the wake of a power outage the night of June 8 that cut electricity to 1,600 PG&E customers, forced the library to be evacuated and caused, according to the city, tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

At least one Googler was affected.

“Drones are fun until someone flies one into high-voltage power lines, causing 1600 people in my neighborhood to lose power,” Google software engineer Adrienne Porter Felt tweeted the morning after the incident.

Reports of the power outage had come in just after 8 p.m., Mountain View officials said in a statement.

“When our officers arrived on scene, we were told by witnesses that a white adult man with white hair had been flying a drone in the area – which is not permitted – and the drone subsequently crashed into a high-voltage wire,” the statement said.

“The resulting power outage lasted until shortly after 11 p.m., and impacted areas including City Hall and the city library, the latter of which had to be evacuated out of an abundance of caution.”

It took until the following morning for repairs to be completed, according to the city.

Witnesses said the rogue drone pilot fled the scene in a white hatchback before police arrived.

Federal aviation regulations prohibit flying drones within five miles of an airport, including Moffett Field, according to the city, which is continuing to investigate.

However, that is not an absolute prohibition, according to Joshua Ziering, co-founder and chief drone pilot at Kittyhawk.io, a drone-operations firm.

“A hobbyist (drone) pilot can fly within five miles of an airport provided they follow certain rules,” Ziering said.

According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, a hobbyist can fly a drone within five miles of an airport if she or he notifies the airport operator or control tower. If a drone operator regularly flies from a permanent location within five miles of an airport, he or she should establish with the airport operator or tower a mutually agreed-upon procedure, the association said.



Photo: A drone — with no apparent connection to the power-outage incident — flies in Portola Valley in 2014. (John Green/Bay Area News Group)


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  • Note you can fly within 5 miles of an airport, but must notify the airport, and also follow local community guidelines (usually set by local clubs, I think):

    From FAA Site: https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/
    “5 miles from airports without prior notification to airport and air traffic control”

    Use FAA app to help know where you can fly:

  • David Moran

    The typical consumer drone is not large enough or heavy enough to bring down a high-voltage power line, no more then a large bird could. Mylar balloons are more likely to be a problem since they may be large enough to span between two lines and cause a short since they are conductive.

  • That’s what happen when he did something stupid like that, his hair turns to white in fright.