First UK Drone Conviction Ends with Ban, Fine

Judge says Nigel Wilson, 42, put the public at risk when he flew surveillance craft over Premier League stadiums and near Buckingham Palace. Wilson becomes the first person convicted of "drone offences" in the UK in landmark case

Photo Caption: One of the drones belonging to Nigel Wilson. (Credit: Metropolitan Police)

Nigel Wilson, a 42-year-old amateur filmmaker, has become the first person in the UK to be convicted of “drone offences.” He pleaded guilty today to seven offences contrary to the Air Navigation Order 2009 (PDF) and was fined £1,800 ($2,760). He was also ordered to pay £600 in costs and is banned from purchasing, owning or flying drones for two years.

Wilson, who is from Nottingham, in September 2014 flew three drones and filmed over Premier League football stadiums and near Buckingham Palace. He also captured aerial footage of Big Ben, the Queen Victoria memorial next to Buckingham Palace and the Shard skyscraper.

The Metropolitan Police arrested Wilson in July as part of a joint investigation with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

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“As drones become more widely available, it’s important that anyone using this type of small aircraft understands that there are strict regulations on how and where they can be flown and that police, in partnership with the CAA, will look to prosecute anyone who does not follow these rules,” says Chief inspector Nick Aldworth, the Met’s leading officer on the misuse of drones. “Flying drones over congested areas or buildings can pose great risks to public safety and security and Wilson pit many people in real danger. Today’s outcome should serve as a warning to anyone thinking of doing similar that they could end up in court if they ignore these regulations.”

District judge Quentin Purdy says Wilson put the public at risk by flying the drones over busy 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. 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.”

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Susan Bryant, Wilson’s attorney, described him as a “hobbyist” who has “put a great amount of time into in terms of improving his skill.”

The Air Navigation Order 2009 says drone operators in the UK must not fly over or within 150 meters of congested areas, over or within 150 meters of an organized open-air assembly of more than 1,000 people, or within 50 meters of any vessel, vehicle or structure not under the user’s control, unless they have obtained permission from the CAA. It also says users must maintain direct visual contact with a drone throughout its flight path to avoid collisions.

“As this case shows, anyone flying a drone needs to understand that there are safety rules in place which have to be followed,” says a CAA spokesperson. “These rules are there to protect the safety of the general public and other airspace users. It is clearly not appropriate to fly a drone over large crowds of people or close to buildings and the CAA will continue working with the police to ensure these safety rules are upheld.”

[Source:] City A.M.


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