User fined for abusing drone in the UK

A drone industry insider in South Africa has warned that people who misuse drones in the country that they risk legal troubles, following the arrest of a drone user who flew his drone over a prohibited government building in the UK.

Kim James, the director of South African drone services provider UAV Aerial Works, says drone industry players in the country were working with authorities to ensure that cases of drone abuse stayed in the minimum, and that offenders would be brought to book.

“While the Drone Council South Africa, CUAASA (Commercial Unmanned Aerial Association of Southern Africa) and many others are tirelessly working with role players to open up the drone economy, evolve the regulations and expand to and include all parties of interest, enforcement is also being actively driven,” James said.

She is a member of both organisations.

Her sentiments follow reports from the UK that a drone user was recently caught flying his drone over the MI6 building in London, and fined £5,000.

The BBC reported that police in the UK – working under an operation called Foreverwing – can now confiscate drones found in places where they shouldn’t be flying, and can issue spot fines.

Police officers on the operation have also been equipped with other special tools needed to tackle drone misuse, which include specialist anti-drone software and hardware, vehicles and training.

“This represents a landmark moment for the UK in tackling this new and developing threat,” said Shaun Hipgrave, Home Office director responsible for counter-drones.

Drones are attracting a huge fanbase the world over, for both their commercial and recreational capabilities. Sadly, their flexibility has also meant they can be used for illegal purposes, like transporting drugs into prisons or even across national borders.

Besides being used as mules, drones have also flown into prohibited areas, with the famous example being that of that drone at Gatwick Airport that wrecked travel plans for thousands of people in 2017.

Recent cases in South Africa involved individuals – one in Cape Town who flew his drone to survey the latest fires in the city; and another one in Johannesburg who was covering an event at a premise adjacent to an aerodrome – flying in a zone where helicopters were operating in, when the rules clearly outlaws this.

In the USA, there was this drone that crashed into a nesting area for hundreds of birds, who then abandoned their eggs in panic.

Aviation authorities have sought to regularise the drone industry by requiring that drones that anyone operating a drone weighing 250 grams or more, or one fitted with a camera, has to register with the local Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

“We’ve had 200,000 registrations since the system was set up in November 2019 but we think that there are many more out there unregistered, potentially tens of thousands,” said Jonathan Nicholson, from the British CAA. “Our prime concern is about aviation safety and how aircraft and drones can legally share airspace.

“So the emphasis is on the drone user, because it is much more likely they will see a helicopter or light aircraft, than the pilot of those will see a drone.”

Police in the UK will be on the lookout for drones, amid some high-profile events happening in the country, including the current Euro 2020 football tournament, and the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow in November.

Drone misuse is a problem that is becoming common the world over; and we are glad the UK authorities are not bringing a hammer into this and putting a blanket ban on the new technology; instead choosing to deal with individual cases as they happen.


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