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Drone Play Could Land Users In NYPD's Counter-Terror Database

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- To land in the NYPD's counter-terror database, you probably think that you have to do something pretty outrageous.

But as CBS2's Tony Aiello reported, a simple trip to the park could actually get you "terror-listed."

Video producer David McFly Mims launches his quadcopter every week from a city park. The $4,000 camera-equipped drone for filmmakers can fly a half-mile up, and be controlled from 2.5 miles away.

"No tickets, no summonses," he said.

Mims is lucky, because he's breaking the law, and risks the suspicion of the NYPD's counter-terrorism team.

"I think it's safe to say the average person would be shocked to find out the Parks Department and the Police Department are compiling a watch list," New York City Park Advocates President Geoffrey Croft said.

Croft said that since at least February, Parks Enforcement officers have been reporting drone operators to the NYPD.

On Staten Island, a parks officer ticketed Marc Boyce for flying a small toy drone at Willowbrook Park.

"They wanted to know where'd I get it from, how long; you know, what model was it? They took information off the drone; they wanted my information," Boyce said.

According to a parks memo, the information is kept in a database to forward on and share with the NYPD.

The NYPD's Deputy Chief for Counter-Terrorism, Salvatore Di Pace, said with the possibility that drones can be fitted with firearms, or loaded with explosives, it only make sense to red-flag people caught illegally operating drones.

"We do an extensive background check. Our intel division gets involved. We run the background," he said.

Drone researcher Arthur Holland-Michel said he understands why the NYPD is keeping tabs on drone users, but said it may not make sense.

"Whether it's going to be a use of department resources that may not make a lot of sense, since we haven't seen a lot of malicious intent cases is another question," he said.

Whether you drone is a tool or a toy, if you get caught flying it illegally in New York, you might get checked for ties to terror.

It's legal to fly drones in certain parks like Flushing Meadows and Floyd Bennett Field.

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