A New York City science teacher who police say crashed a drone into stadium seats during a match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament faces criminal charges and a possible federal fine, authorities said Friday.
The shoebox-sized drone slammed into empty seats in Louis Armstrong Stadium during a Thursday night women's singles match, stunning the players and fans but causing no injuries.
The alleged operator, Daniel Verley, 26, of Jamaica, Queens, was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, the NYPD said. He is also charged with reckless operation of a drone and operating a drone in a New York City park outside of a prescribed area, both infractions.
Investigators said Verley, a photography buff, was standing near the landmark Unisphere at the tennis center in Flushing Meadows when he apparently lost control of the four-propeller 3DR Solo drone, which can stream live video.
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said the mishap in an area filled with large crowds "clearly illustrates that drones cannot simply be considered children's toys."
A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said the agency, which has the power to levy "significant fines" against anyone operating an aircraft unsafely, is investigating.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Friday reiterated his call for federal regulations requiring manufacturers to equip drones with "geo-fencing" technology that would create no-fly zones around stadiums, airports and other sensitive areas. "The issue at the U.S. Open reinforces the urgency to get this amendment passed," he said.
Verley surrendered to police at the scene and was formally arrested about 1 a.m. Friday. Police said he received a routine desk appearance ticket and is scheduled to be in Queens criminal court on Sept. 16.
The incident occurred about 8:45 p.m. Thursday during a second-round match between Flavia Pennetta of Italy and Monica Niculescu of Romania.
Pennetta told The Associated Press that her initial reaction as the drone flew over was that it might have been a bomb, calling the episode "a little scary."
Authorities said Verley teaches at the Academy of Innovative Technology in Brooklyn, a high school. Board of Education officials said they will be monitoring the criminal case.
Attempts to reach Verley were not successful.
With Maria Alvarez
and Joan Gralla