FAA Investigating Drone-Shot Video of Fireworks Over West Palm Beach, Fla.

With Palm Beach International Airport only a few miles from downtown West Palm Beach, the question is whether or not the drone's flight followed certain air traffic control guidelines.

by Kristen M. Daum, McClatchy News Service / July 9, 2014

A man who flew a drone into a fireworks show over West Palm Beach and captured stunning video that went viral over the weekend might have to answer to federal investigators.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the video is “under investigation.”

“The FAA is looking into multiple incidents in which unmanned aircraft flew into fireworks displays to determine if there was any violation of federal regulations or airspace restrictions,” the agency said in a statement to The Palm Beach Post.

Punishments can include “a verbal warning and an order to stop the operation and civil penalties,” the FAA said.

A man named Jos Stiglingh uploaded his now-infamous 4-minute feature to YouTube on May 13. The video gained global exposure over the Fourth of July holiday after GoPro uploaded a snippet of it and promoted it on its YouTube page on the afternoon of July 4.

By early Saturday, Stiglingh’s full-length video had nearly 2 million views, and as of Tuesday afternoon, that number was approaching 8 million.

Other ambitious videographers have also used drones to capture fireworks from an aerial vantage point. A Nashville man made a similar video on July 4, The Tennessean reported.

The FAA said flying model aircraft — including unmanned devices — is allowed under certain guidelines. They cannot be flown beyond the sight of the operator or interfere with manned aircraft. Any flights within five miles of an airport require notification to air traffic control.

Stiglingh’s video was shot at night and the drone appears to loft several hundred feet in the air. Palm Beach International Airport is only a few miles from downtown West Palm Beach.

It’s unclear on what day Stiglingh’s video was captured. Prior to July 4, the last fireworks show over West Palm Beach was at the conclusion of SunFest on May 4.

Stiglingh wrote on YouTube that he filmed the video using a GoPro Hero3 attached to a DJI Phantom 2 — a device built to capture aerial photos and videos. It’s operated by a remote control.

When contacted over YouTube, Stiglingh declined to answer questions from a Palm Beach Post reporter and would say only: “I’m sorry. GoPro owns the footage.”

It does not appear that Stiglingh lives in South Florida. A Facebook page using the same profile photo as Stiglingh’s YouTube and Google accounts indicates he lives in South Africa.

GoPro has not returned an email seeking comment, and DJI declined to answer questions about Stiglingh’s video.

Instead, the Chinese company said in a statement that “DJI is committed to helping pilots operate their craft safely. We provide extensive information for flying safely and in accordance with national and international laws in our disclaimer and warning manual.”

GoPro, which became a publicly traded company two weeks ago, has soared in popularity in recent years as its small, light-weight cameras are used to capture monumental events — such as Austrian parachutist Felix Baumgartner’s 24-mile free-fall descent from the stratosphere in 2012.

©2014 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)