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Thu, 17 Jul 2014 18:31:51 +0000
(NEW YORK) -- As New York's first openly gay congressman, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney must have known his June 21 wedding to longtime partner Randy Florke would be a little controversial.
But he probably didn't realize that video footage from the ceremony would spark a government investigation.
The video, which features stunning aerial footage of the church where the wedding took place in Cold Spring, New York, apparently was filmed using an unmanned commercial drone.
The video has attracted the interest of the Federal Aviation Administration, which bans the unauthorized commercial use of drones because of safety concerns.
In a statement provided to ABC News, the FAA did not mention the congressman by name but announced that it was investigating "a report of an unmanned aircraft operation in Cold Spring, New York, on June 21 to determine if there was any violation of federal regulations or airspace restrictions."
The photographer who shot the video, Parker Gyokeres, confirmed that he knew the FAA was on his tail.
"I'm just a guy with a single multi-copter in the trunk of my car who was trying to do my job," Gyokeres said in an interview with ABC News. "But this is a political event now. I'm being used as the stick to poke the skunk."
Maloney's office brushed off the matter.
"On their wedding day, Sean and Randy were focused on a ceremony 22 years in the making, not their wedding photographer's camera mounted on his remote control helicopter," communications director Stephanie Formas said in a statement.
In an interview, Gyokeres said it was the couple's wedding videographer, not the congressman, who arranged for the drone, adding that Maloney didn't request the video that caused the uproar.
"The wedding video that was put online was not done for the congressman. It was B-roll that I brought home after I gave my source material to the videographer," he said. "This video, I feel horrible about, because it's not the congressman's video."
But Maloney appeared to be pleased with the result. On July 9, he tweeted: "Check out 'The Fireworks at Randy and Sean's Wedding' on Vimeo," along with video of the footage.
Gyokeres, who maintains his crew was granted permission to film by the local sheriff's department, said the Capitol Police -- purportedly there to protect high-profile guests, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- was aware of his plans and even "vetted me into the area."
"No one had a problem with me being there," he said. "I gave out like 50 business cards."
According to Gyokeres, who has since been contacted by Maloney's office, he did not brief the congressman on his safety plan, but is "obsessive about safety."
Maloney is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's aviation subcommittee that has jurisdiction over the FAA.
"Sean briefly spoke with the wedding photographer subcontractor, who assured Sean that there were no laws governing remote control helicopters and it would be done safely," Formas said, noting that because of a paucity of "'enforceable' FAA rules...it's no wonder that even a lawyer on the subcommittee didn't grasp the surprising complexity of having wedding photographs taken with this technology."
Gyokeres said he has not yet been contacted by the FAA. But he took issue with the agency's ban, saying, "There are no laws that govern this."
According to the FAA, drone operations "not for hobby or recreation" are authorized "on a case-by-case basis. Violators could face warning notices, letters of correction, and civil penalties."
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