Drone fine is welcome news for event safety

October 2015

Live events sector



The danger of drones falling out of the sky (and things falling from drones) has recently begun to trouble event organisers – including sports events, outdoor music events and festivals. Now Nottingham based Nigel Wilson, 42, has been convicted flying unmanned devices over built-up public places, or without direct sight of the aircraft, which is prohibited under sections 166 and 167 of the Air Navigation Order 2009.
Wilson flew drones over Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium during a match in September 2014, flying so close to the ground that police horses were “startled” and officers struggled to control them, according to a police statement. He also flew drones over Arsenal’s Emirates stadium in North London, Derby County’s iPro stadium, and Manchester City’s Etihad stadium, all on busy match days. After the Manchester incident, on the 18th October 2014 Wilson was arrested by Greater Manchester police. Wilson was bailed, but then arrested again by Metropolitan Police, who were carrying out an investigation with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), after it emerged he had also been flying drones over London landmarks including Buckingham Palace, the Shard, HMS Belfast and the Houses of Parliament.
Westminster Magistrates Court ordered him to pay a fine of £1,800 and £600 in prosecution costs and also issued a order banning him from buying, owning, or flying drones, or assisting anyone else in using drones, for two years.


Buzzfeed quotes Met Police Chief inspector Nick Aldworth saying: “Flying drones over congested areas or buildings can pose great risks to public safety and security and Wilson put 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.” Chief Inspector Aldworth also told a recent Lords inquiry into drones that he feared the devices could be used to promote civil unrest. In October a drone draped with Albanian symbols was flown into the middle of an international football match between Serbia and Albania, sparking an onfield brawl.
In May 2014 a man who flew a small unmanned aircraft over Alton Towers, endangering the safety of the theme park’s customers, pleaded guilty to two separate charges at Stafford Magistrates Court. The court heard Mark Spencer, 34, had flown his quadcopter device over a number of rides at the Staffordshire attraction on 9th November 2013, bringing it within close proximity to people as he filmed the rides using an onboard camera. The video was subsequently posted on YouTube. Magistrates fined Mr Spencer £150 for each offence under the Air Navigation Order (£300 total) and ordered him to pay a contribution towards the CAA’s costs of £250.
In April 2014 Robert Knowles, 46, of Barrow-in-Furness, was fined £800 and ordered to pay costs of £3,500 at the Furness and District Magistrates Court after being prosecuted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). He pleaded guilty to flying a small unmanned surveillance aircraft within 50 metres of a structure – the Jubilee Bridge on the Walney channel – and flying over a nuclear installation, the BAE System submarine-testing facility. He lost control of the drone and a video shows that the drone flew on for more than three minutes after Knowles apparently lost control, narrowly missing the Bridge.


At the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada Black Rock Desert last week  a GoPro camera that was meant to capture a panoramic view of Burning Man narrowly missed killing revellers when it fell from a drone, falling to the desert floor where it continued filming after being picked up and ending up in the middle of an outdoor dance party.
In June 2015 pop star Enrique Iglesias suffered extensive hand injuries when he grabbed a flying camera drone during a concert. The singer frequently did the trick to give fans a better view of the stage, but touched the wrong part of the drone, slicing open several fingers and forcing him to leave the stage with his hand wrapped in a bloody T-shirt.
A drone crash during a U.S. Open tennis match in early September 2015 led to the high school science teacher who had been flying the drone from a park outside the tennis venue being arrested by police on reckless endangerment and other charges. Security officials at the Open say they have drones on their list of concerns as they work to protect the 46.5-acre complex, which includes three stadiums and numerous other courts in the city’s Flushing Meadows Corona Park near LaGuardia Airport. In the USA drone pilots generally must get clearance to fly within 5 miles of a sizeable airport. The Federal Aviation Administration put drone and model-plane enthusiasts on notice in October that it’s illegal to fly the aircraft near Major League Baseball, NFL and NCAA Division I college football games and major auto races.
In Australia, Australia’s air safety body was investigating injuries caused to triathlete who was injured by a falling drone in April 2014. Raija Ogden reportedly sustained minor head injuries after the drone’s operator lost control of the device. The videographer operating the drone,  Warren Abrams, was flying the drone 10M above the race route to capture the run section of the race. He claimed the craft had crashed because an attacker managed to wrest control away from him at the Geraldton Endure Batavia triathlon in Western Australia. Ms Ogden was treated at the scene of the accident before being taken to hospital where stitches were required to close a head wound.
The Boeing aerospace company has reportedly developed a laser cannon to shoot hazardous drones out of the sky.
In the United Kingdom under CAA Air Navigation Regulations, the overriding requirements is that the operator of any Unmanned Aerial Vehicle must avoid causing or permitting a drone to endanger any person or property by being flown recklessly or negligently and a drone cannot be flown in controlled airspace. A drone cannot be flown out of the operator’s visual line of sight (usually taken to be 500M horizontally and 400 feet vertically) and cannot be flown within 50M of structures, within 50M of individuals or within 150M of large crowds: it is illegal to fly an unmanned aircraft over a congested area and drones cannot fly above 400 feet (max altitude).
An operator flying small unmanned aircraft on a commercial basis with the purpose of obtaining ‘valuable consideration’  must have ‘permission for aerial work’ (PFAW) from the CAA.. In order to obtain this permission, the operator must be able to prove that they can safely, competently and responsibly control a SUA in UK airspace. A caution was recently issued against a photographer from Lancashire, for “using a unmanned aerial vehicle for commercial gain without permission”. The photographer sold footage of a fire at a school to media organisations despite not having clearance from the CAA to operate the device commercially
There are also restrictions to protect privacy and operators must comply with the Data Protection Act 1998.  The CAA have issued a guidance which can be found here http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=1995


Certain events have are subject to temporary orders governing their airspace – where it is in the public interest to restrict flying – for example the Glastonbury Festival was subject to the Air Navigation (Restriction of Flying) (Glastonbury Festival) Regulations 2015













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