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This is a story with good guys and bad guys that really begins about a decade before the Blue Angels even thought about forming up over Detroit to honor frontline responders to the coronavirus pandemic, and then nearly smacked a drone in the process.
The DJI Phantom, first released in 2013, put an easy, ready-to-fly, remote-controlled aircraft in the hands of nonaviators. DJI grew out of a college dorm room into a multibillion-dollar international company. Company founder Frank Wang wanted to make aviation more accessible, and certainly accomplished that. DJI today controls 75 percent to 80 percent of the small drone market worldwide, but Wang is not one of the bad guys in this story. Technology is what you make of it, and stupid is as stupid does. Let’s call DJI a neutral party in this one.
Certainly, the frontline responders are among the good guys, but they don’t really figure in this story. The Blue Angels pilots would also be in this camp, and thanks to a touch of good luck, they don’t really, either, though it appears that the drone that took the video (which several people managed to download and republish before the original post was hidden from public view) came within a few feet of the formation over Detroit on May 12. (The team’s public affairs officer did not respond to an email seeking comment on the incident, though we presume that the team was not well-pleased by the close encounter they probably didn’t notice as it happened.)
Among those who downloaded the video soon after it was first published on May 13 was Vic Moss, a professional photographer, a remote pilot, and an administrator of a Facebook group of commercial remote pilots with more than 16,000 members. Moss, despite his attempts to make clear when reposting the now-invisible original that the video in question was not his own, was promptly excoriated by many who mistook him for the pilot on the sticks behind the stunt that could have cost one or more human lives, and done lasting damage to a fledgling industry.
“I’m really happy that people are mad at me,” Moss said in a telephone interview. Wait, “happy”? “We’re maturing as an industry, and people are really passionate about safety.”
Moss tracked the pilot down through social media profiles that have since, he said, been deleted. The pilot does not appear to be one
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