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
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 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
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