Think Drones Are Safe? Ask the Woman Who Lost Part of Her Nose

Even recreational drones can do damage.

(Photo: YouTube)

Dec 10, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Nicole Pasulka is a writer and reporter who lives in New York City. She has written for Mother Jones, BuzzFeed, The Believer, and the New York Observer.

It wasn't a bird or plane that nipped Brooklyn photographer Georgine Benvenuto in the nose—it was a drone.

The "Mobile Mistletoe" remote-controlled helicopter hovering in a Brooklyn TGI Fridays restaurant cut off a piece of the woman's nose and scratched her chin on Dec. 4.

Benvenuto had "encouraged" TGIF drone operator David Quiones to land the craft on her hand, but then she flinched, and the drone's propeller blade cut her face, the Brooklyn Daily newspaper reported.

Drones are unmanned aircraft systems, also known as UAS, which have been used to take aerial photographs, deliver goods, and carry out violent strikes against terrorism suspects abroad. Weaponized drones used by the United States to attack specific targets overseas have been responsible for at least 2,400 deaths since 2009, but because of carelessness, drones have killed people domestically as well. Last year, a man was killed in Brooklyn when a drone fell on him. The flying crafts get too close to airports, and a drone used for wedding photography even crashed into the groom.

Many Americans have also expressed privacy concerns over camera-equipped drones. People in Cleveland, Seattle, and San Jose, California, have spotted drones on their properties and reported them to authorities, according to Business Insider. Legislators and citizens have called for regulation of the unmanned aircrafts. Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration prohibits commercial use of drones. Recreational unmanned aircrafts cannot be flown above 400 feet, close to airports, or in congested cities like New York. But it still happens. The FAA is expected to release federal rules for commercial drones that would require operators to have licenses and severely restrict flights.

The main worries are that drones could fall on people or crash into them and interfere with airplanes and helicopters. However, drones abroad pose a much deadlier threat. The 2,400 people killed by U.S.-controlled weaponized unmanned aircrafts includes around 200 children in Pakistan. The American government has also used drones to kill at least 14 terror suspects living overseas who also happen to be U.S. citizens. In the film Citizenfour, about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the former computer analyst said that from their desks, NSA staff "could watch drones in real time as they surveilled the people they might kill."

Benvenuto survived her encounter with the drone, and when asked if they were nervous about the possibility of being injured, some other restaurant patrons shrugged off the incident.

"It was like a scratch on her nose," Karim Turner of Yonkers said at the restaurant after seeing a photo of the injury, reported Brooklyn Daily. "I've seen far more worse blood than that."

The drone's pilot doesn't seem concerned. "If people get hurt, they're going to come regardless. People get hurt in airplanes; they still fly," Quiones said. "There is a risk involved. Anything flying—there is risk."