A 37-year-old man has been convicted of various drone flying offences including infringing the air traffic zone of Wellesbourne Airfield.
Richard Smith pleaded guilty at Leamington Spa Magistrates Court on 5 July 2017 to 15 offences that took place over the course of four drone flights between December 2016 and January 2017. He was fined £259 with £30 surcharge and £185 costs imposed. An order to retain the drone has also been issued.
The investigation by Warwickshire Police began following a report of YouTube video footage showing concerning drone flights taking place across South Warwickshire. PC Craig Purcell was able to obtain evidence of a drone being flown in the following manner:
- Up to 2km from the operator and well beyond his visual line of sight
- Over the main road, houses and school of Lower Quinton village
- Through fog and above the cloud base
- Within the restricted airspace of Wellesbourne Airfield
- Purposely flown to a distance that caused the aircraft to lose signal and initiate the ‘failsafe’ return to home mode.
There were a number of other issues noted and many of the offences took place with a non standard DJI Phantom 3 drone that had been modified with software and hardware to increase the flight distance capabilities.
Following the conviction, PC Purcell said, “We see many video examples across the internet of people purchasing their first drone and failing to adhere to laws put in place to protect members of the public. People need to be aware that you can’t just buy one of these machines, throw it into the air and start flying wherever you want without thought.
“The cost of drone technology is reducing rapidly. The secondhand market is bringing costs down even further meaning a 1kg to 2kg drone can be bought by somebody who has no idea how many times it has been crashed in the past or if it is structurally still sound.
“The courts have recognised the issue today and with the decision to deprive Mr SMITH of his drone on conviction we hope this sends a strong message to those who are giving the responsible hobbyist community a bad name.”