Amazon employee admits to drone fly-by at Seattle’s Space Needle


A drone flies at the International Consumer Electronics Show in January. (AP/Jae C. Hong)

Trips to Seattle should probably come with a warning: Caution, drones in use.

On Thursday night, security guards at the Seattle Space Needle called city police after tourists reported a drone buzzing outside the window of the attraction's observation deck -- a full 520 feet in the air. They claimed the drone crashed into the observation deck window.

The white, camera-equipped, four-propeller device then glided back into the fifth floor window of a nearby hotel.

When police caught up with the drone's owner, it turned out to be an Amazon employee who eagerly showed them video of the drone's flight, which didn't indicate that it had struck the Needle during its journey, according to a Seattle Police Department blog post.

And, no, this wasn't a test-drive of Prime Air, which Amazon (whose chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post) recently announced it's working to develop. If the Federal Aviation Administration plays along -- and so far, it hasn't -- drone delivery service could offer same-day, human-free delivery to your front door.

Seattle, where Amazon is headquartered, has had a spate of drone-related incidents in recent months. Collectively, they suggest that the general population isn't quite ready for the drone-powered future.

Police say the Amazon employee (whose identity wasn't disclosed) has agreed to abide by Seattle's drone regulations and will no longer fly the drone in public.

The Space Needle folks, by the way, couldn't resist cracking a joke about the situation:

Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip
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