Video Shows Drone Flying Illegally and Dangerously Close to Blue Angels Military Jets

Video has surfaced showing a drone flying dangerously and illegally close to military jets over a major American city.

The video was shot during the recent America Strong flyover by the United States Navy's Blue Angels on May 12. In it, the drone flies dangerously near six F/A-18 jets in formation as they are over downtown Detroit multiple times, with the last pass shown being exceedingly close. The other thing to remember is that most consumer drones have wide angle lenses around 24mm or 28mm, so the jets were even closer than they appear in the video. 

The video shows an attribution to the Instagram handle @giolucia, an account owned by Giovanni Lucia. It appears that Lucia has taken down both his Instagram and Facebook accounts, though a screenshot of a Facebook post showing drone images of downtown Detroit dated February 18, 2017 reads: "might of broke a couple FAA regulations today..."

This is certainly not the first such incident involving a drone flying dangerously close to aircraft, but I have to say that given the proximity to the planes, the major metropolitan area, and the clear disregard for regulations, it might be the most egregious I have seen.

Sincere thanks to Parrish Ruiz De Velasco for bringing this story to our attention. 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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This is why we can't have nice things. Glad no one was hurt or worse.

Where would it crash land? Where would the spent ammunition fall?

It's demonstration team. No ammo

Mr Sucker, you are wasting a lot of time.

Referring to other people's time. I suspect you have a lifetime of time wasting behind you, and before you. That is fine. Just don't bother others.

I hope the authorities will investigate and prosecute the photographer. They clearly need to send a message that this can not be tolerated. It is very fortunate there was no loss of life or significant property damage this time!

«authorities» case tons of space junk orbiting earth and that is going to get only worse...

There is a difference when an intentional act of blatant disregard for others is involved.

space junk situation or world oceans junk catastrophe could fit that descriptor “blatant disregard for others” quite nicely, but still the single act of stupidity cases more indignation then chronic catastrophic pollution

I think you may be on the wrong website. If you want to discuss the evils and perils of pollution to the environment you can find websites ad nauseam all over the Internet that will warmly embrace your participation.

Here, we are discussing photography related issues...and in this particular case, the irresponsible and illegal behavior of an individual photographer in the way he/she unsafely operated their drone.

Please post on topic or elsewhere!

sometimes reckless behavior produces acceptable captures, so no legislation will ever going to stop people from reaching “danger zone” in one way or another.

Your post is incredibly off-topic, however, the United States, Russia, European Union, Japanese and United Nations are all working to reduce the amount of space flotsam generated by their space programs, and space industries both through laws, and action.

That said, a capture that puts someone else at risk of bodily harm without their knoweldge and consent is abosolutely unacceptable.

It might seem so... For you at least. I am simply curious why would you care so much? Since the quads are banned and birds are not, jet engine more likely to suffer from a bird collision. Don’t you think?

"dangerously" close, little dramatic don't you think? All you can do is speculate how close it was when it fact the Blue Angles usually fly 2ft apart. So unless that drone is within that 2ft window, dangerous is an exaggeration and once again clickbait *rolls eyes*

It's a badass shot, no where near dangerous though. Stupid though, I'll give you that.

Stupid and dangerous are two different things ;)

No, I think dangerously close is pretty accurate if not an understatement. For some context, in Canada (I'm unsure of US requirements) you can't fly a drone within 3 nautical miles of an airport. This looks just a tad closer than that, so whether it's 2 feet or 200 ft doesn't really make a difference - either would be dangerous.

There is no way that the drone pilot can be sure exactly where those jets will be when they pass by. If they accidentally put the drone in the path of the jets, the drone may be small enough that the pilots don't see it with sufficient time to react to avoid a collision. Also, they're in formation, so moving to avoid an impact could result in crashing into another of the jets.

I think dangerous fits pretty well.

That's your opinion. I think it's an exaggeration and a CNN headline. I'm an adrenaline junkie and have done some pretty wild shit in my day, never once thought oh this was dangerous. At not point did one of these Jets have to maneuver out of the way, at no point did the drone get a huge gush of wind bc it was THAT CLOSE. So I think it's an BS. Appreciate your viewpoint though.

At the speed the jets are traveling they’d never see it. As stated, drones use wide angle lenses, so the drone in this case is maybe 50 feet, and that’s not due to any control or planning by the operator. He just stuck it in the sky and luckily no one was killed. In any “adrenaline junkie” situation you’ve been in you were still in control and probably weren’t endangering anyone else. See the difference?

Okay, you said maybe 50 ft. Lets use that number, until that drone was within 10ft would I classify that as DANGEROUS. Stupid absolutely! Irresponsible absolutely! Dangerous, not a chance. Danger is when lights are flashing and things are going haywire, and it's life or death. This was simply just a dumb move.

What you are not grasping here is what if their flight plan was to bank left at that time right into the drone? What if the drone gets sucked into an engine? Yes, it was dangerous and also wickedly stupid. Not click bait, just an important story to highlight this dumbass' choice.

You're talking what if's not reality! So in your what if scenario, if they banked and was heading directly at it then YES, that would have been extremely dangerous. BUT, that's not what happened in REALITY. Welcome back

Geez, neverfreakingmind. You'll never understand what the rest of us are talking about.

"They didn't bank so it wasn't dangerous" So you know for a fact that the idiot drone pilot knew they weren't gonna bank there? Cuz if he didn't know that, based on his decision to fly there, and the rate of speed those planes are moving, he would not have been able to get out of the way, and that makes it stupid and dangerous. That's reality.

No, reality is NOTHING happened. Those are the facts. I prefer facts over feelings, nice try though.

Or YOU have never actually been in real danger, because I'm sure your tone would change real quick LOL

When I was in the Air Force, a "near miss" was considered 1/4 mile, so yeah, this drone was dangerously close.


Precision aerial acrobatic teams practice countless hours in order to fly at extreme speed “2 ft apart”, as you say. The maneuvers they have practiced do not include encountering unexpected obstructions in their flight path. The fact that they fly in close precision formations is completely irrelevant to what has been determined to be a safe, legal distance to operate from.

Your apparent distaste for government authority and regulation in no way minimizes the mandated consequences of violating them.

In spite of your diatribe and insults, the fact remains this behavior is reckless and illegal and is punishable by law!

Please reserve your anti-government comments for a more appropriate site. In the United States of America our legal system still operates as a result of laws that are written and passed by elected government officials.

I’m sorry you find that something to make jokes or hurl personal insults about.If it is that objectionable to you perhaps you should consider running for office to change the system...or, moving to another, less “oppressive” country!

A jet engine ingesting a drone while in flight can absolutely knock it out which would absolutely create a dangerous condition. Particularly during close order high precision maneuvers. it's even more dangerous when you consider the fact that the operator has no clue what the flight path of the F-18s is going to be, and the whole jet engines are effectively giant vacuum cleaners.

Here's an F-16 ingesting bird on takeoff, and losing all engine power as a result.

If this video is real, dangerous, reckless, and illegal are all appropriate descriptions.

"Can".....key words bud. At no point was it even close enough to causing real damage. The drone never even moved from the shear force of wind. Reckless, illegal, dumb, sure. DANGEROUS, no. But that's my opinion, don't like it? I don't care haha

What is the difference between reckless and dangerous? Don’t they often reach the same conclusion? Also you are a thrill seeker. Great. Maybe the drone operator is too. Are the pilots? You may think they are but they are in a very controlled environment. Until a random drone recklessly enters their flight path. Then it’s not their decision anymore. Why is that ok? To take away the pilots decisions?

I think the point you are grossly missing here is that this was pure luck. The operator had no idea where those planes would be and if the drone had been in the path it could have been deadly for both the pilots and the people below. That’s pretty dangerous to me. And reckless.

It’s not the same as you deciding to scale a building a take pics with your feet hangin off. Sure you might kill a pedestrian walking by. Maybe. If an f-18 crashed into another one avoiding a drone over a populated city there would be more then one death. And tons of collateral damage.

And let’s just say this too....TRUMP would be the FIRST one to say what a menace these drones are if a blue angel got downed over Detroit. Then he would move to BAN all drones and use federal regulations to do it.

And you would probably back him on that!

And the next big political rivalry would dems for drones and Trump’s for banning them. (....Republicans don’t exist anymore). You and I both know that!

“At no point was anyone in harms way‘

I am probably going to regret asking you this, but in your opinion as a self-avowed thrill seeker and adrenaline junkie, at what point would you determine that someone was in harms way in this situation (6 F/A-18 jets flying at very high speed in a close precision formation over a densely populated metropolitan area)?

If you've ever flown a drown you know how sensitive they are to wind. At no point did this drone even stutter from the wind force given off by these jets. I'd like to think (I truly don't know), but if a jet comes wizzing by you at 600-800mph that it would provide an extreme force of wind thus easily sending a drone into a crazy wind tunnel. So in my extremely uneducated theory of wind force, the drone could not have been close at all. Bc I know my drone goes side to side all the damn time when even a little wind comes through haha.

I 100% think this is reckless and dumb and I personally would have never done it. I just think dangerous is far fetched and we as a society are starting to use these words to over exaggerate the truth and make things seem so much worse than they really are just to really spark an emotion and get views.

So if it was 3 feet away it would safe? You have no concept of what it takes to fly a formation.

What's that saying, "You can win by an inch or a mile, doesn't matter because you won!" Same concept here, there's no danger until there IS DANGER. 2ft, 50ft no danger! Because NOTHING happened! There is no immediate danger until that drone is directly in its path and about to collide.

Drone owner operates in a way that shows intentional disregard of FAA rules and significant danger to the pilots (and crowd below) in Michigan. Government's response -- so far nothing.

Barber opens his shop with minimal danger to others in Michigan. Government's response -- close his shop, revoke his business license, and threaten to arrest and jail him.

Is it just me or is there a foolish lack of proportionality in society today?

Agreed. The drone operator should have his gear confiscated, be fined and advised he will be incarcerated if he/she violates the law again as well!

Old saying we have heard since we were small children..”two wrongs do not make it right”!

Federal law applies to drones, not to barber shops. State law does not apply to drones. The local library has various rules and regulations, but they apply to neither.

Fair enough. I point out that government can move quickly when it wants to...

Such as when combating a disease pandemic.

As a point of reference, this guy is not a Part 107 commercial certificate holder. He's just a guy who bought an expensive toy and disregarded any FAA rules regarding the flight.

How do we know what is going on behind the scenes at the FAA? They may already have him in custody for all we know.

A new F/A-18 will set you back (or, the taxpayers rather) a hefty $70m. I'm not implying a plastic flying toy would've brought a military jet designed for combat down, but it would've probably caused internal damage to one of its two engines if it were sucked in. I'm happy that DJI instituted a firmware function that disables their drones from flying in certain types of airspaces. Now, if they could only interpret temporary flight restrictions (TFRs), that would go a long way towards stopping reckless behavior such as this. Unfortunately, it usually takes a major accident before these things become heavily regulated.

Birds take planes down multimillion dollar aircraft and often don't weigh much more than drones.

I'm not sure about all the fuss.
On this screen capture; you can see that the drone is actually flying LOWER than the tallest buildings we can see.
(video at 0.30 and at 0.36 )

And the google 3D view of Detroit showing how tall are the building of the city.
He may actually been at this altitude.
I'm not defending the guy if he did something he should not, but just presenting some other perspective to the video.

I'm not sure what you're trying to get at, the Blue Angels will fly lower than some buildings when doing performances. Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) regulate airspace above ground level (AGL). It doesn't matter what the height of the surrounding strcutures is.

Exactly. I saw the Thunderbirds perform while I was stationed in Panama and a friend of mine has photos of them "from above" that he took from the roof of his apartment building. That particular show ended early due to a bird strike by one of the F-16's.

Maybe the Navy should contact this guy as he was able to do this with a great artistic capture of the blue angels, instead of prosecuting him make him a leader in how to do things, he is obviously talented with the drone why punish that talent instead of develope it

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