First ever UK prosecution for dangerous driving of a DRONE: Man fined £800 for illegal flying of unmanned aircraft

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2595245/First-UK-pro...

First ever UK prosecution for dangerous driving of a DRONE: Man fined £800 for illegal flying of unmanned aircraft

  • Robert Knowles, 46, was found to have flown his homemade aircraft into restricted airspace over a nuclear submarine facility
  • He also flew his drone, which was equipped with a video camera, too close to a vehicle bridge in an illegal manoeuvre
  • Both offences breached the UK’s Air Navigation Order and he was found guilty on April 1 and fined £800 at Furness and District Magistrate Court
  • The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said the conviction sends a message to recreational users of drones that they are subject to aviation safety rules

A man has become the first person in Britain to be successfully prosecuted for the dangerous and illegal flying of an unmanned aircraft (UAV).

Robert Knowles, 46, was found to have flown his homemade aircraft into restricted airspace over a nuclear submarine facility, as well as flying the drone too close to a vehicle bridge.

Both offences breached the UK’s Air Navigation Order.

Beware incoming: A man from Cumbria has become the first person in the UK to be successfully prosecuted for the dangerous and illegal flying of an unmanned aircraft (UAV). A stock image of a quadcopter drone is pictured, but Robert Knowles' UAV was homemade

Beware incoming: A man from Cumbria has become the first person in the UK to be successfully prosecuted for the dangerous and illegal flying of an unmanned aircraft (UAV). A stock image of a quadcopter drone is pictured, but Robert Knowles' UAV was homemade

Mr Knowles, of Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, was found guilty on 1 April and fined £800 at Furness and District Magistrate Court following the prosecution by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), who said the case raised important safety issues concerning recreational flying of unmanned aircraft.

THE CAA’S RULES FOR OPERATING UAVS WITHIN THE LAW

  • A drone must never be flown beyond the normal unaided ‘line of sight’ of the person operating it. This is generally measured as 1,640ft (500m) horizontally or 400ft (121m) vertically.
  • A UAV fitted with a camera must always be flown at least 164ft (50m) distance away from a person, vehicle, building or structure.
  • A UAV fitted with a camera must not be flown within 492ft (150metres) of a congested area or large group of people, such as a sporting event or concert.
  • Consideration must be shown to other airspace users. Therefore unmanned aircraft should not be used in the vicinity of airports or within restricted airspace.

The court heard that on 25 August, a UAV was recovered from water near to a submarine testing facility in Barrow-in-Furness, operated by the defence company, BAE Systems.

 

The aircraft is said to have flown through restricted airspace around the nuclear submarine facility before it crashed.

A spokesman for the CAA told MailOnline that the UAV was more like a model airplane than a helicopter-style aircraft and was built from scratch, with a small video camera attached to its body.

The police were called to investigate whether the video footage was a security concern and while they decided the flight was not a significant security breach, analysis of the video footage taken from a camera fitted to the device subsequently revealed that during its flight the drone had skimmed over the busy Jubilee Bridge over Walney Channel.

The UAC was well within the legally permitted 164ft (50metres) separation distance required, according to the CAA.

After it was recovered, the UAV was traced to Mr Knowles who admitted to building the device himself and operating it on the day in question.

He was charged with flying a small unmanned surveillance aircraft within 164ft (50metres) of a structure and flying over a nuclear installation.

The CAA said the conviction sent a message to recreational users of UAVs that the devices are subject to aviation safety rules.

Punished: Mr Knowles, of Barrow-in-Furness, was found guilty on April 1 and fined £800 at Furness and District Magistrate Court. The court heard that on August 25, a UAV was recovered from water near to a submarine testing facility in Barrow-in-Furness (pictured) operated by the defence company, BAE Systems

Punished: Mr Knowles, of Barrow-in-Furness, was found guilty on April 1 and fined £800 at Furness and District Magistrate Court. The court heard that on August 25, a UAV was recovered from water near to a submarine testing facility in Barrow-in-Furness (pictured) operated by the defence company, BAE Systems

A spokesman for the authority said: ‘Anyone operating an unmanned aircraft for their own private use should be aware that they have to abide by certain rules.

'These rules are in place to protect the safety of the public, and simply require operators to maintain a safe set distance between their unmanned aircraft and any people, buildings or vehicles in the vicinity. Followed correctly, these rules will not interfere with the ability of an individual to fly an unmanned aircraft recreationally.’

The conviction of Robert Knowles follows the recent case of a photographer from Lancashire accepting a caution for using a UAV for commercial gain without permission.

Lawrence Clift had sold footage of a school fire taken from his quadcopter to media organisations, even though he did not have authority from the CAA to operate the device commercially.

Anyone using unmanned aircraft for ‘aerial work’ requires special permission from the CAA, which the body claims ensures safety standards are being adhered to and that the operator  of the UAV is fully insured.

Found: The drone was reportedly found crashed in water near to BAE Systems' submarines testing facility in Barrow-in-Furness (pictured). After it was recovered, the UAV was traced to Mr Knowles who admitted to building the device himself and operating it on the day in question

Found: The drone was reportedly found crashed in water near to BAE Systems' submarines testing facility in Barrow-in-Furness (pictured). After it was recovered, the UAV was traced to Mr Knowles who admitted to building the device himself and operating it on the day in question

Views: 3507

Comment by criro1999 on April 2, 2014 at 11:36am
Comment by Austin Laws on April 2, 2014 at 12:08pm

SERVES YOU RIGHT.....What a idiot!

Comment by Oliver on April 2, 2014 at 12:13pm

So, these prosecutions are intended to "send a message"? Snort! Anyone who needs a warning not to fly over a nuclear submarine pen is way, way beyond help or hope. And (if you went down into this silliness far enough to learn about idiot #2) anyone who has a nice opportunistic photograph to sell and is stupid enough to brag about how it was taken is equally beyond help or hope. Let the "authorities" prove that you didn't launch your GoPro from a catapult, mount it on your beanie while hopping on a pogo stick, lash it to your pet flying squirrel, climb a tree with it, use a mast, or that you were simply in a nearby high building, on a hill, on a bridge, and so on.  Good luck to them proving anything at all without you blabbing about it. You are under no obligation to tell anyone anything. The "message" is really simple: Go about your business quietly, safely and sensibly and keep your mouth shut.    

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on April 2, 2014 at 12:15pm

So the CAA has now beat the FAA both in coming up with a permit system for commercial use, AND the ability to prosecute a private individual for reckless usage during non-commercial use.  It's looking worse and worse for the FAA.

Wasn't it Helen Keller who said "I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do."

Comment by criro1999 on April 2, 2014 at 12:50pm

this guy did not had the intention to fly on that restricted zone. he just lost control and his model goes inside the zone. read the full story link.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on April 2, 2014 at 1:47pm

That is not in the full story link, that is in the comments.  Even assuming it's true, I think CAA's point is that you should be in command and control of these things at all times.  It should not be possible lose control, and just have it fly off.  The system should recognize it has lost the command and control link, and either RTL, or auto-crash.

The airplane flew through restricted airspace.  Do you really think the authorities should say "Oh!  You lost control of it, and that's why it crashed near a nuclear submarine base.  I didn't realize that.  Here's your plane back, sorry about that."

No, it's just not acceptable.  Just the same as it's not acceptable to leave loaded guns lying around for kids to play with, and then say that you didn't intend for anybody to get shot.

In the past, RC Airplanes usually didn't make it very far when they went out of radio control.  But now with autopilots, they can.  It should be the responsibility of the autopilot system to not just fly off with no control link.  Now, there's lots of people, and reasons why people would do this.  I've set that parameter to "continue in auto" as well a couple times.  But I'm personally taking the risk when I do it, I can't blame it on the autopilot, or claim I'm not responsible for whatever happens.

Comment by Gary McCray on April 2, 2014 at 2:06pm

An 800 pund fine while not chicken feed is just what they said it was, a message.

I am sure the authority took into account his lack of intention to breach the submarine pens air space when they handed out such a lenient response.

Had they though otherwise, I think a fine might have been the least of his problems.

That said what Robert says is certainly true, when we are flying these things we are 100% responsible for what happens as a direct consequence, accident or not.

I have seen many videos from people who were flying in such a manner that if their copter had suddenly ceased operation and fallen straight down, there would have been a sizable risk to people below, let alone of the failure scenarios where it doesn't go straight down. And certainly true for fixed wings as well.

It is really difficult for even us to determine exactly what reasonable safety measures and precautions ought to be.

I imagine the FAA is having more than a bit of trouble wrestling with it too.

I just hope that when it all shakes out we have a hobby (and maybe even a business) left out of all this.

Best Regards,

Gary

Comment by Scott Penrose on April 2, 2014 at 3:57pm

This is feel good story for me. The approach of taking the individual as being responsible, rather than the knee jerk reaction of blaming the technology. As Gary says, we just hope it stays in the individual space, and not blame the UAVs.

Comment by Mike T on April 2, 2014 at 5:07pm

this is exactly the sort of thing people SHOULD be fined for.

Comment by ikrase on April 2, 2014 at 5:41pm
The horizontal separation from people seems a little wide.

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