In our February edition we featured the growing use of unmanned aircraft (drones) for commercial and recreational use. This month we look at a recent case where a drone user was prosecuted.
- On or about 17th April, you were the operator (pilot) in command of a (model) drone in the vicinity of (area).
- The aircraft in question is an unmanned aircraft (drone).
- You received payment for the photos taken during the flight.
- At all times relevant herein you did not possess (CAA) certification for operation of a commercial (for fee) flight.
- Specifically, you were paid for aerial photographs by person(s) named in the proceedings.
- You deliberately operated the above-described aircraft at extremely low altitudes over vehicles, buildings, people, streets and structures.
- Specifically, you operated the above-described aircraft at altitudes of approximately 4m to approximately 150m over (specific location) which was a populated area.
- You operated the aircraft while at times it was out of your direct line-of-sight.
- For example, you deliberately operated the above-described aircraft in the following manner:
- You operated the aircraft directly towards an individual standing on a footpath causing the individual to take immediate evasive action to avoid being struck by your aircraft.
- You flew the aircraft through a tunnel containing moving vehicles.
- You operated the aircraft below tree top level over a tree-lined footpath.
- You operated the aircraft within approximately 5m of a statue.
- You operated the aircraft within approximately 15m of railway tracks.
- You operated the aircraft within approximately 15m of numerous individuals.
- You operated the aircraft within approximately 5m of numerous buildings.
- You operated the aircraft on at least one occasion under an elevated pedestrian walkway and above an active street.
- You operated the aircraft directly towards a two-story building below rooftop level and made an abrupt climb to avoid striking the building.
- You operated the aircraft within 30m of an active helicopter pad at the above location.
How do plead?
This case is real, although it took place in the US in 2013, and resulted in a $10,000 fine for the drone operator.
Based on the increasing capability and low cost of drones we expect to see rapid growth in their use and similar prosecutions in Australia, and also civil cases for damages.