UK Hands Out First ‘Unlawful’ Drone Conviction

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Nigel Wilson’s fine and banning order marks the first conviction relating to flying a drone in Britain

A British drone enthusiast has been banned from his hobby in the UK’s first conviction for flying an unmanned vehicle unlawfully.

Nigel Wilson from Nottingham was banned from owning or operating a drone and fined a total of £1,800 for nine offences including flying over Premier League football stadiums, the Houses of Parliament, and Buckingham Palace.

Wilson was originally arrested back in March after he was caught flying a drone over Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, and had pleaded guilty to four charges of flying small unmanned surveillance aircraft over a congested area and five of not maintaining direct, unaided visual contact with a small unmanned surveillance aircraft.

Unsafe

DroneAt his sentencing, District judge Quentin Purdy told Wilson he had shown “flagrant disregard” for public safety by flying his three drones over busy, built-up areas.

“At each and every one of these places an accident could have occurred simply by a gust of wind or something of that nature taking it out of your control,” the judge said.

“In each and every case you knew what you were doing. Several times you were warned by police, who seized drones from you, and on numerous occasions by people posting on your YouTube channel. It was the height of arrogance in terms of public safety.”

The Guardian reported Wilson was also ordered to hand over his drone equipment and given two crime prevention orders banning him from purchasing, borrowing or using for any purpose a drone or encouraging anyone else to do so.

Susan Bryant, defending, described her client, who also had to pay £600 costs and a £20 surcharge, as a “hobbyist”, adding: “It was something he put a great amount of time into in terms of improving his skill.”

Risky?

The sentencing may prove the first of many in the UK as drones become an increasing area of interest for hobbyists around the country.

Recent research by the University of Birmingham highlighted the privacy, safety and indeed security risks of drones over the next 20 years, especially as the aircraft could be possibly used by terror groups to attack public events.

Currently, drones can only be used in the UK within sight of the operator and with permission of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The United States has also seen a number of incidents, most recently at the US Open tennis tournament, where a drone crash-landed into stands during a match. New York’s JFK airport also recently reported that two flights had narrowly avoided colliding with drones recently, with the vehicles coming dangerously close to commercial planes.

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