Screengrab via Armando Ferreira/YouTube

Drone strikes power line, causes large blackout in California

Police are searching for the pilot.


Chris Tognotti


Published Jun 11, 2017   Updated May 23, 2021, 3:33 am CDT

Someone in the city of Mountain View, California may be in some hot water right now. On Thursday night, a hitherto unnamed man was allegedly piloting a drone in the Northern California city without proper permission to do so, and he ended up knocking out a power line and sparking a widespread blackout.

According to the city’s official website, some 1,600 residents of Mountain View were plunged into darkness by the crashed drone, which was utterly ruined in the process.

The city library was reportedly evacuated “out of an abundance of caution,” and overall, the city says the damages from the crash and subsequent power outage totaled in the tens of thousands of dollars. Witnesses reportedly told city representatives that the drone pilot was a white adult man with white hair who left the scene in a white hatchback. The authorities were summoned at about 8:10pm PT, at which point it was realized that the drone had collided with a high-voltage wire.

The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, has rules and regulations which dictate private drone piloting: It can’t be done within a five-mile radius of an airport or in areas close to people or obstacles.

This isn’t the first time somebody has damaged infrastructure or injured a person by way of an errant drone, and it probably won’t be the last. In February, a Seattle photographer was sentenced to 30 days in jail after he lost control of his drone and struck somebody during the city’s Pride festivities. Simply put, with technology advancing at a rapid pace and these sorts of drones becoming increasing affordable and commercially available, people are going to need to start familiarizing themselves with the relevant laws and restrictions.

The drone in this case, shown in the Mountain View Police Department’s tweet embedded above, was apparently charred and wrecked beyond recognition when it collided with the power line. The resulting power outage reportedly lasted about three hours.

According to the city of Mountain View, the investigation is still ongoing, and as of Sunday morning, the drone pilot has not been found.

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*First Published: Jun 11, 2017, 12:16 pm CDT