Drones Over Brooklyn,
an Eyewitness Account

March 5, 2013 | Andy Cush

At 11:45 Monday morning, a friend of ANIMAL art editor Marina Galperina sent her a GChat message saying that he’d seen a drone flying over East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

“Maybe 10 foot wingspan. Probably 200 ft in the air. Not high, though it wasn’t armed with missiles or a visible camera,” Rhett Jones wrote. “I thought it was some weird jet that was further up but as it got closer I realized it was just small.”

At the time, ANIMAL editor Bucky Turco and I laughed off the claim, figuring it was a remote-controlled toy or a small commercial plane–anything but an actual UAV. Then, nearly 24 hours later, CNN published a story about a commercial jet pilot who reported seeing a drone flying at 1500 feet at around 1:15pm the same day.

The Alitalia pilot was landing at JFK when he spotted the flying object, and estimated that it was four to five miles west of the airport, putting it somewhere near the Brooklyn-Queens border.

After reading the CNN story, we got in touch with Jones for more details about his sighting Monday morning. He told ANIMAL he saw the vehicle flying directly overhead at around 11am on Bushwick Avenue near the Montrose Avenue L stop, and believed in retrospect that the aircraft’s wingspan was closer to 20 feet than the 10 feet he originally reported.

“It looked kind of like a jet but seemed to be perfectly flat on the bottom,” he said. “That’s what made it seem unusual to me. It definitely wasn’t the shape of a commercial airliner; it was more angular and it was silver. There was no jet exhaust and no sound.”

It’s not clear whether Jones and the airline pilot saw the same flying object yesterday–Jones’s sighting came about 90 minutes before the pilot’s and happened significantly further Northwest, and their estimates of the vehicle’s height are drastically different. It’s also possible that whatever each of them saw was an innocuous commercial or hobbyist aircraft.  Still, both were quick to identify what they saw as a drone, and it bears repeating that Jones’s original report came well before anything was published about the pilot’s sighting.

“After I noticed the lack of jet stream and came to the conclusion it was probably a drone I thought, ‘Yeah, that makes sense. Time to get some coffee,'” Jones concluded. “After so many erosions of civil liberties, if it was confirmed to be a drone test I really wouldn’t think much of it. I’m just glad others saw it so I don’t sound like a crazy person.”

(Image: Ignotus the Mage/Flickr)