UK gets first drone conviction after flights over football stadiums

The man flew his drone over soccer stadiums on match days and over London landmarks

Anfield Stadium in Liverpool as seen from a drone confiscated for illegal flight. Credit: Metropolitan Police

Anfield Stadium in Liverpool as seen from a drone confiscated for illegal flight. Credit: Metropolitan Police

A U.K. man has been convicted of flying drones illegally over buildings and congested areas, the first conviction of its type in the country.

Nigel Wilson of Nottingham was fined £1,800 (US$2,800) and ordered to pay an additional £600 in costs after pleading guilty to offenses under the U.K.'s Air Navigation Order 2009. He was also banned from purchasing, owning or flying a drone, or assisting anyone else to fly a drone, for the next two years.

Manchester Police arrested Wilson last October after complaints about drone flights over the Etihad Stadium on match days.

Police discovered he had also flown his drone over Anfield stadium in Liverpool during a Champions League match against Bulgaria's Ludogorets FC. During that incident, Wilson is said to have flown the drone so close to mounted police that it startled their horses. He later posted the footage to YouTube, according to the police.

Further flights were discovered over the iPro Stadium in Derby, the Emirates Stadium in north London, and near the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, the HMS Belfast and the Shard tower in London. Those flights led to his arrest by London's Metropolitan police.

The incidents involved him flying his drone out of his line of sight, within 50 meters of buildings and over congested areas -- all offenses under the law.

The police confiscated a DJI Phantom drone from Wilson as part of the investigation.

Confiscated DJI Drone Metropolitan Police

A DJI Phantom drone confiscated by police as part of the prosecution of a man for illegal drone flights.

Illegal drone flight is becoming a problem in the U.K., U.S. and other countries as popularity of the small craft increase, their cost decreases and new software makes them easier to fly.

In June, police officers confiscated a drone after it was seen flying over the All England Lawn Tennis Club during the Wimbledon tennis tournament, and over the weekend a drone crashed into Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site in west Japan.

After the successful prosecution of Wilson, London's Metropolitan Police warned it would prosecute anyone who does not follow drone flight rules.

"Flying drones over congested areas or buildings can pose great risks to public safety and security and Wilson put many people in real danger. Today's outcome should serve as a warning to anyone thinking of doing similar that they could end up in court if they ignore these regulations," Chief Inspector Nick Aldworth, said in a statement.

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Martyn Williams

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