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Drone Flies Over Brooklyn In NYC’s First FAA Approved Launch

Derrick Threatt



FAA Approved Flight

Photo courtesy of Jon Ollwerther.

Aerobo, formerly named Aerocine, is one of the biggest players in the burgeoning U.S. drone industry — but until this Thursday afternoon, the Brooklynites who run it had never been approved by the FAA to fly a drone through home skies.

The drone was launched at 5 p.m. near the company’s offices.

“It was right here in Brooklyn — in Industry City,” Jon Ollwerther, head of communications at Aerobo, says in a brief phone interview on Thursday evening, over the roar of a nearby drone.

In an article on the company’s record-breaking flight, the New York Business Journal calls Aerobo’s co-founders, NYU alumni Brian Streem and Jeff Brink, “Brooklyn’s Wright brothers.”

From the Journal:

The commercial flight is historic in that the company, Aerobo, is the first to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, marking the beginning, in a lot of ways, of a whole new industry.

“Though we have conducted many test flights on this airframe and others in our fleet, today is not a test flight, it is for a commercial client,” wrote Jon Ollwerther, vice president of marketing and operations, in an email today to the New York Business Journal. He called commercial drones a potential $20 billion industry.

The drone that Aerobo sent up on Thursday is an Aerobo X8 (approved by the FAA in June) equipped with a camera called RED Epic.

And the ”commercial client” in question is a production company making a film about Brooklyn tech companies, Ollwerther tells Patch.

Aerobo’s Drones And The FAA Approved Flight

Aerobo’s drones have completed plenty of FAA approved flights in other parts of the country, Ollwerther says, but fighting for FAA approval in NYC was another mission entirely.

That’s because drones aren’t allowed fly higher than 200 feet, yet must maintain a 500-foot distance from all buildings (unless building owners give permission) and a five-mile distance from all airports. In a city as tightly packed — and as padded by airports — as NYC, those rules make for a tricky flight path.

But according to Ollwerther, Industry City was perfectly situated, and sufficiently nonresidential, to fit the bill.

Elsewhere in Brooklyn, around exactly the same time as Aerobo’s historic flight, a decidedly less legit drone operation spooked office workers in Brooklyn Heights.

According to the Brooklyn Eagle, a drone was spotted hovering outside 16 Court Street as its onboard camera peeped through office windows on multiple floors. The drone operator was then reportedly seen “standing on the roof of 189 Montague Street, an office building owned by the Treeline Companies.”

We’ve contacted the FAA about the latter incident, as it appears to break multiple rules in the FAA’s new 2015 guidelines.

In fact, it almost serves as a counter-stunt to Aerobo’s — a ”what not to do” to offset NYC’s first-ever “what to do” in the wild, hard-to-tame arena of personal and commercial drones.

Just one day before, the FAA revealed that pilot sightings of unmanned aircraft (aka, drones) have “increased dramatically over the past year, from a total of 238 sightings in all of 2014, to more than 650 by August 9 of this year.”


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