Illegal drone use successfully prosecuted by UK CAA

The UK Civil Aviation Authority has brought its first successful prosecution for the “dangerous and illegal flying” of an unmanned air vehicle.

Robert Knowles, from Barrow-in-Furness, was found to have flown the device in restricted airspace over a nuclear submarine facility, as well as allowing the device to fly too close to a road bridge. Both offences breached the UK’s Air Navigation Order. Knowles was fined £800 ($1,330) by the magistrate’s court and faces costs of £3,500.

The court heard that on 25 August 2013 a UAV was recovered from water near the BAE Systems submarine testing facility at Barrow-in-Furness. Analysis by the police of video footage taken from a camera fitted to the device revealed that during its flight it had flown over the Jubilee Bridge across Walney Channel, passing closer than the required 50m (164ft) separation. The UAV had also flown through restricted airspace around the nuclear submarine facility.

Knowles admitted to building the fixed-wing device himself and flying it that day. The CAA said the conviction “will send a message to recreational users of UAVs that the devices are subject to aviation safety rules”.

To clarify what is expected of UAV private users, the CAA says that even users of remotely controlled model aeroplanes for recreation are subject to safety laws.

Anyone using unmanned aircraft for “aerial work”, or for commercial gain, requires a “permission” to do so from the CAA, to ensure safety standards are being adhered to and that the operator is fully covered by indemnity insurance. It advised anyone using a UAV recreationally to seek advice from established model aircraft clubs, which have detailed local knowledge of airspace restrictions.

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