Image by Alexander Lesnitsky from Pixabay

Flying a drone up the Mississippi and refineries and chemical plants got a person in trouble.

A New York City filmmaker who was arrested on Mardi Gras morning for flying a drone over chemical plants in St. Charles Parish says he only wanted a “pretty picture” of the Mississippi River and had no intention of spying on the petrochemical industry. The St. Charles Sheriff’s Office says Volodymyr “Vlad” Dorogobid, 38, and Tigran Avetisyan, 39, were found operating a drone that had been spotted flying low over the Dow Chemical plant in Taft just before noon on Feb. 21. Photographing or video recording chemical plants, refineries and other “critical infrastructure” without the owner’s consent is prohibited under Louisiana law. Dorogobid, who lives in Brooklyn and is originally from Ukraine, didn’t know this, and wasn’t actually trying to film chemical plants, he said Friday. Now he faces obstruction of justice charges, three counts of unlawful use of an unmanned aircraft system, and has become the focus of a joint Sheriff’s Office and FBI investigation. “I’m a filmmaker, and my main purpose is nature and beauty,” he said. “Actually, honestly, I didn’t like my picture of the river because when I put (the drone) up, everywhere was gray.”

His grey were the sprawl of the plants up the Mississippi, with valuable secrets.

The “gray” was the sprawling array of plants and other industrial sites on both sides of the river between Taft and Norco. Dorogobid has a production company called Click Film that specializes in commercial and fashion videography. His online portfolio includes ads for life insurance, yogurt drinks, and Ukraine’s national folk art museum. He also produces video “travel logs” of his many road trips around the U.S. He was on such a trip when he was arrested. Traveling with his friend, Avetisyan, from Miami to Houston, they decided to stop in New Orleans for thier first Mardi Gras, which Dorogobid lauded as “an absurdist show in the streets.” Once back on the road, they decided to stop “in the suburbs” to get what they imagined would be a pastoral view of the Mississippi. Once the drone was up, it didn’t take long for a deputy to arrive. A Sheriff’s Office report says Dorogobid and Avetisyan were ordered to land the drone, which they did on the river batture. The two men went over the levee to get the drone and returned with a black bag but refused to open it, according to Sheriff’s Office records.

It went downhill from there.

Investigators later learned that the men had hidden the drone on the batture, prompting the obstruction of justice charges. They also determined that the drone had flown over two other chemical plants in the area: Linde Inc. and Air Liquide USA, authorities said. The Sheriff’s Office declined to discuss the incident because of the FBI’s involvement in the investigation. Dorogobid spent about 24 hours at the Nelson Coleman Correctional Center in Killona. He and Avetisyan were released Feb. 22 on $100,000 bond each, court records said. News stories of his arrest prompted theorizing on the internet that he may be a Russian spy or was hired by an environmental group to find dirt on the petrochemical industry. He denies both. “I’m not a spy,” he said. “I’m a regular, human guy.” He’s also, he admits, sometimes a “stupid guy.” “I am sometimes nosy,” he said. “But this is curiosity because I’m a filmmaker. I think some people are thinking there’s not enough cruel facts about me (on the internet). But I’m just a regular, stupid guy who decided to (launch) his drone in the wrong place.”

A stupid action that got out of control. What can you learn of a chemical plant form the air?

Is a refinery a military secret
Tagged on: