Drone drops from sky at Clement Farmer’s Market; pilots object to being photographed

The camera-shy pilots whose drone crashed at the Clement St Farmer's Market on Sunday

The camera-shy pilots whose drone crashed at the Clement St Farmer’s Market on Sunday

Drones are all the rage these days. During the holidays alone, retailers were expected to sell nearly 400,000 drones and another 1 million more in 2016. Consumers like to fly them over public spaces to film, well, whatever.

It means enough new flying objects in our airspace that the FAA now requires drone owners to register their devices through a new website. 181,000 drones have registered since the site opened in December.

On Sunday, reader Jaime was strolling through the Clement Street Farmer’s Market when a drone fell out of the sky.

“A drone fell in the middle of Clement Street and nearly landed on someone’s head. Would have been bad because it was a large drone,” Jamie said.

After about 45 seconds and much bewilderment from market shoppers, a man ran up and grabbed the drone, then jogged away without a word.

Jaime pulled out her camera to snap a pic of the pilot and his accomplice, who then shouted to stop taking pictures, and covered their faces.

“They said, what did I think I was doing taking their picture as they tried to cover their faces? I replied don’t you see the irony here? You guys just did the EXACT same thing to me and everyone else at the Farmers Market,” Jaime said.

Maybe they should try some test runs in an empty field before flying their drone over a crowded Farmer’s Market.

We’ll let you know if any video surfaces of a flyover of the Clement Street market. 😉

Sarah B.


  1. shouldnt this be submmited to the police? would assume it’s illegal to drop heavy objects the weight of bricks on crowds of people, which is effectively what they did.

  2. They should be arrested, they could have killed someone. First techies try and destroy the culture of our city, now they are trying to destroy our residents. This city isn’t the same anymore.

  3. Get over it Mike, you can’t live in a hole and pretend it is 1980 forever…

  4. @Richmondtechie You weren’t born in 1980, how would you know what community standards were in place for privacy etiquette in our city? But def make sure to voice your support of drones filming people without their knowledge/consent.

  5. 4 prop drone is so 2014. I wouldn’t spread my legs for anything less than 6.

  6. What’s more expensive, that drone or a juice at the farmer’s market?

  7. @hazbeen Oh i’m sorry, I wasn’t aware you had access to my personal records and knew everything about me. No, you’re a hazbeen, probably 40 and living in your mother’s basement.

  8. @richmondtechie

    You really are not helping the case against the assumption that you techies are all intrusive assholes 🙂

    Does it feel good to ruin a city? Do you feel the slightest bit of shame as you move about a city that truly…resents you?

  9. @richmondtechie

    Take solace in the fact that in all likelyhood there will come a time when Richmondtechie’s job evaporates along with whatever over valued and over leveraged tech start up de jure Richmondtechie happens to call home. He or she will then have to pack up what few marketable skills they do have a fuck off somewhere else.

    As for you, RIPSF, cities are constantly evolving along with the people and businesses that populate them. To sit there and complain because you’re not a part of it or because of some misplaced nostalgia for what once was is annoying and makes you seem really whiny and obnoxious.

    You two are both the worst parts of this city and deserve each other in perpetuity.

  10. @ripsf The tech industry made this city great. It isn’t my fault you don’t have a real job and can’t afford to live here anymore… Don’t worry, I’ll throw you some change when I see you panhandling.

  11. Wow, what hatefulness here today! This doesn’t sound like the good people of the Richmond that I know & love…

    But ITA with Hazbeen & Steve.

  12. Haha made it great?

    Dude, there are other jobs besides tech that pay well. I live comfortably in this city still 🙂

    As for you, YouAllSoundDumb, you made a lot of summations about me based on very little information, of course cities evolve and change… But as Richmond techie demonstrated.. Clearly this wave is full of assholes. Assuming his job is the only real job worth doing? Jokes about homelessness?

  13. First, I give you, practicing flight over a crowd is asinine. It does warrant a citation or a stern talking to. A few things, though: The model drone he was holding has no built-in camera. It weighs 2lbs, and is made of malleable plastic. It might cause a bruise, even falling from a height, but it won’t break bones. It’s designed to carry a GoPro camera, which I don’t see there. If you see a drone, there’s about a 50/50 shot that it MIGHT have a camera. Most drone owners fly them recreationally, much as RC plane and helicopter owners do. Also, even if he WAS taking film of a public space, it is highly unlikely there were any individuals being used as subjects for his his film. Yes, he was being irresponsible, but I would categorize this as more “nuisance” than “criminal”.

  14. @theintrospective
    This drone is more than capable of attaining the sort of altitude necessary to achieve terminal velocity in free fall. 2 pounds of plastic edges and propellers could easily cause serious injury to someone’s dome piece not to mention a moving vehicles wind shield or what have you. Dumb luck is the only reason this wasn’t criminally negligent on the part of the pilot, not because this is some light as a feather harmless piece of plastic.

    and @richmondtechie you seem just horrible.

  15. The supposed conversation between Jaime and the pilot is a complete fabrication added in to make Jaime seem more witty. Sorry.

  16. Sarah B. Do you know of this was reported to police? I have small children and often stroll clement farmers market including this past Sunday. It scares the sh#t out of me to think this could have fallen on one of my toddlers heads.

  17. First, I agree that flying something like this above a crowd without proper training is reckless, and a citation isn’t out of the question. Sure, at about 300 feet or so it’ll hit terminal velocity before hitting the ground, which is apx 67 fps for the phantom 3, about 45 mph, with similar impact characteristics to a softball. 45 mph is about the speed of a little league (12 year old range) curve ball pitch. Yes, it’ll bruise, but will not break bones. If it hits just right, and the blades are actively spinning, there could be lacerations, though the with the low moment of the blades on these props, any cuts would be shallow. The chances of serious injury from a falling drone of this type are very slim. In order for an injury from this particular drone to be serious is incredibly slim, and in order to be fatal, it’d have to be . . . bigger, faster, heavier. There is a next to 0 chance this particular drone could kill someone by falling out of the sky. That isn’t to say there aren’t larger drones that would certainly be very dangerous, like the YUNEEC Tornado, for example, which is bare frame and weighs 11 lbs. On the other hand, a Bebop would be negligible risk (though still reckless to fly around other people if the pilot is unpracticed). Let’s just keep a bit of reality here. I think the pilot of this drone was reckless and deserving of some level of punitive action, but I don’t think it qualifies as reckless endangerment. There are only three reasons the Phantom III will fall out of the sky, listed in order of likelihood: 1) Aggressive piloting by someone who is unpracticed/untrained, 2) Impact with another airborne object (another drone, bird or a thrown rock), or 3) Malfunction. The guy was likely behaving like an irresponsibly, though probably isn’t deserving of public, pervasive, and permanent shaming (as an article like this provides), or jail time as some have hinted at.

  18. Edit: “like an irresponsibly” should read only as “irresponsibly”

  19. theintrospective
    You’re assumptions are irresponsible. Presuming that something with spinning blades, falling from the sky is the same as being hit by a horizontally thrown round softball is ludicrous. Giving a near 0 chance of death is the kind of predictions that get you killed by a car in a crosswalk, yes, the chances are near 0, but it happens. No drones in the City, please.

  20. I met them before. they refused to stop flying their drone at devils slide park, when after 20 minutes I finally spoke up to say listen I came to sit here and relax and it’s really, really bothering me. rather than any sort of apology it was the classic childish I’ll be done in a minute. they have no consideration for others, and further, aught to be reported to homeland security for scoping out “targets of opportunity”.

  21. If someone sees them again please call the police!! Our neighborhood is becoming less safe everyday, especially with all the homeless people coming here. There is a homeless woman living at the bus stop at 7th and California. I’m worried what our one beautiful little neighborhood is turning into.

  22. I’m sure they’re sorry and won’t do it again… why do people make such a big deal out of this. Mistakes happen

  23. ya sounds like they are real owning it…cowardly ducking away to avoid responsibility then defending their actions in the comments section..

  24. There are a lot of big events that will bring out the drones in SF, like Bay to Breakers, Outside Lands, and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Regardless of what the event promoters proclaim outsiders and interlopers will undoubtedly try to fly drones over these events. To protect public safety it’s probably not safe for the police to try shooting them down. The only other way I see of controlling them would be for the SFPD to have a larger drone that can intercept and “capture” the rogue drone, but I don’t see that happening very soon. Of course maybe the drone fad will fade away like the interest in CB radio in the 70’s and, more recently, 3D TV.

  25. If they were flying a drone without a camera, what was the point of flying it over a crowd? Why not take it to the beach. If it did have a camera, they were being invasive and rude. Either way, they should take it somewhere else.

  26. 1) Flying a drone (or ANY remote controlled flying craft) over the heads of other people, particularly public gatherings, is responsible, dangerous, and SHOULD be a ticket-able offense, as well as having a gateway for reckless endangerment when applicable. Reasonable regulations should be created, not ones based in hyperbole, rhetoric or fear, but based in fact, research, and with safety in mind.
    2) This is one of those times that the above would ideally apply. With that particular drone, though, he was not putting anyone at a death risk.
    3) I do believe that cities should establish public gathering spaces as drone-free spaces, but allow provisions for licensing or permits for special cases so that responsibility can be maintained. I’d prefer an outright ban over public gatherings than the free-for-all we have now, to be honest, but I still believe there’s a middle ground.
    4) @no drones: My stance here is well researched and has experience to support it. Let’s be clear about that ‘near 0’ estimation. In order for a falling Phantom 3 to kill you, it’d have to be indirect, like cause you fall into the path of a moving car, or aggravate existing trauma. As to the impact being the same (though impact would be to the head or shoulders should go without saying), well, yes, I stand by that, and I addressed the spinning blades. I never said 0 risk, and as I stated, flying anything above the heads of other people is dangerous.
    5) @mimi What exactly are you accusing me of?

  27. edit: …gatherings, is IRresponsible, dangerous… (not responsible)

  28. @richmondtechie

    the tech industry did not make this city great. the people have. you are not one of them.

    sf native

    It doesn’t have to kill me. A nice gash on my otherwise flawless face will be enough.

  30. The rich irony of not wanting their pic taken! ha! Richmond Blog…I love you.

  31. @theintrospective Your research is wrong, something that large falling from that high could have killed someone. How would you feel defending these terrible techies if it killed someone?

  32. All of you tech industry haters ever realize that there are many SF natives working in tech?

  33. Well, “Tech” wether or not they were “techies”, these particular people’s actions were invasive, negligent, and ultimately ironic.

  34. Yeah, as a techie here in the city, not sure where all the tech hate is coming from. I’ve been here for 20 years, and I came here for tech way back then.

  35. Why is killing or not killing someone the main concern in the “how dangerous is it” portion of this discussion.

    My 2 year old fell and received a gash on his forehead. A small one and one that is healing very well so doesn’t seem to have disfigured him. But I can tell you Inlost quite a bit of sleep over that and despite my disgust at the litigious culture I thought long and deeply about whether the owner of the facility was neglectful and whether I should take legal action to prevent this from happening to someone else. A scratch on my child from a drone is not something I would take lightly. My criteria for grave concern is far below the “can it kill my child” threshold.

  36. Whether or not something has a likelihood to cause major vs minor injury is really there only fair guideline we can use to decide what is allowable in public space. As a general rule, drones or any flying craft cause a known danger, and it is VERY difficult to say whether a particular drone can cause injury, and to what degree until after the fact. So, prohibiting drones in a public space makes sense and is likely something that should be regulated. The reason to point at a particular incident, like this one, and say realistically what the risks (using hindsight) were, is that it allows a balanced view of what the risk is. If it were a larger drone, it would likely have hurt someone quite badly. Any high risk of injury due to negligence is a concern, but we don’t disallow baseball, football, frisbee, or skating in most of our parks. We do, however, disallow dart games and bow and arrow. I agree that the threshold should not be “can it kill”, but it also should not be, “is there a slight risk of minor injury”. I stand by banning unregulated drone flight in public gathering spaces, or an outright ban if need be. I just think that pointing at a 2lb piece of plastic and saying it was likely to kill someone can lead to draconian laws governing civic behavior. Pragmatism isn’t about risk avoidance, it’s about accurate risk assessment.

  37. @TheIntrospective
    Whether or not an activity is allowed in a park is dependent upon the park and its uses, not on its inherent risks. And you’re minimizing–a lot–to defend what is patently a dangerous object in the hands of varyingly skilled people. A drone, with its spinning blades, is exactly like playing darts or archery in public. If you don’t believe that it can be dangerous even if it’s not lethal, read about this poor toddler who lost an eye because of a drone.

  38. I have said multiple times that I think it is dangerous, and should be regulated, and offenses should be punishable. While I agree that the guy mentioned in this story should be fined, I don’t think he should see jail time. If he HAD hurt someone, or shown that harm was his intent, then I’d be singing a different tune.

  39. Can non-techies have drones and SF native have tech jobs? I think creating false dichotomies always somehow takes attention away from the real issues. More than half of these comments were wasted on adults (presumably) bickering. Who even knows if these people are techies? Who cares what they do during the week?

    Their actions on the weekend were extremely reckless, hypocritical and endangered many people. Whether they risked causing a little bruise or a death, that’s a hypothetical you’ll never answer until and unless something happens.

    I was at the Farmers Market that day along with hundreds of other people and I find their behavior scary. Why were they flying over a crowd? I’m thinking it wasn’t to scope out the best broccoli.

    Captain Silverman and Supervisor Mar, is there anything we can do about this before someone does get hurt?

  40. Yes, it’s so uncommon to be injured by a drone that there isn’t even a blog dedicated to it. Oh wait..


    And, the creepiest thing about drones is that they’re being used to spy on victims for theft, perversion, even child abuse/abduction. The problem being they aren’t registered and you have no idea who owns them even if they are destroyed for peeping into your kid’s bedroom or backyard.

    Not saying those guys were up to that, but that’s a big part of what has people on edge: the lack of regulation (or rather consequences therein).

  41. This is yet another example of the fact that common sense and common courtesy have gone out the window in the 21st Century.

    This is also what leads to regulation. Since people don’t exercise common sense and common courtesy then the rest of us have to do it for them.

  42. I decided to look and see what the FAA says about drone use. As of the date of this incident the rules, off of the FAA website, state:

    Model Aircraft Operations
    Model aircraft operations are for hobby or recreational purposes only.
    The FAA has partnered with several industry associations to promote Know Before You Fly (http://knowbeforeyoufly.org), a campaign to educate the public about using unmanned aircraft safely and responsibly. Individuals flying for hobby or recreation are strongly encouraged to follow safety guidelines, which include:
    • Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles
    • Keep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all times
    • Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations
    • Don’t fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower before flying
    • Don’t fly near people or stadiums
    • Don’t fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 lbs
    • Don’t be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft – you could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft

    Since this person was “flying near people” in direct contradiction to the above I would ask the good Captain of the Richmond Police Station to send an investigator to:

    Make sure that this person has in fact registered his drone, assuming it is more then 0.55 pound, and also to point out that he was in violation of the above for flying over a large group of people.

  43. @JD–the info you provided above is common sense good stuff. Hard to imagine anyone but a selfish, inconsiderate person taking issue with it. That said, note that these are safety guidelines, not necessarily laws (although I believe that flying within 5 miles of an airport without prior permission is a violation).

  44. JD: The FAA site says 55, not 0.55 lbs. Anyone flying a 55 lb drone over the heads of bystanders SHOULD be arrested. Anyone flying a 0.55 lb drone over the heads of bystanders deserves a stern talking to and a stiff ticket.

  45. Ben–love this!! I think we have more hawks than eagles around here, but they could probably derail a
    not-too-heavy drones too.

  46. I’ve read too many novels and seen too many motion pictures, so of course these foreign nationals didn’t want to be photographed! They’re practicing their espionage skills over a crowded market for a foreign government obviously. Imagine if the drone had a live bomb that detonated on impacting the ground and the sheer devastation that would cause? I think Homeland Security or ICE would be interested in chatting with those two. There’s a story that’s not being told here.

  47. Also the backpack type worn by the dude is interesting. Wasn’t that the kind used by the Boston Marathon bombers to stow their pressure cooker bombs?

  48. This guy is a pervert and he is doing high tech voyeurism.
    He was caught flying his drone in front of people’s apartment windows.
    He is either a pervert or a criminal.. Looking inside to see what you have in the accessible areas..

  49. see drone over your head/home?
    shoot it down
    can’t wait (sarcasm) for a drone to get sucked into a jet engine, turbo prop, traffic copter….that is a when, not an if

    Technology evolves, homo sapiens way behind
    want more car crashes….put eye/audio distractions into cars.

    Want a stupid exploitative business model…start Uber or Lyft

    Want the San Francisco you fell in love with and moved to years ago? Ask Elon Musk to borrow his time machine. Google..”Do no evil”….giggle giggle

    Or you could be a DARPA android like Zuckerberg or Marissa Meyer

    And don’t forget non-wealthy, non-power monger females….just “lean in”…Cheryl Sandberg does.

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