A drone pilot in the UK has avoided jail time for endangering a historic plane. He is described as “mind-blowingly reckless.”
Mark Bagguley was operating a drone that flew extremely close to the wing of a Hawker Hurricane. This was the last one built and was seen flying over Buxton, Derbyshire, during an annual carnival.
Bagguley was flying the drone while there was an active no-fly restriction. He was caught when a local photographer spotted what he believed to be a bird while looking through his images. Prosecutor Annabel Lenton reports this information to Derby Crown Court during the first case of its kind in the UK.
Bagguley was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for a year, and was made to pay a fine of £3,000. He must also complete 100 hours of unpaid work and will be subject to a curfew until May next year. “This is an unusual case,” says Judge Jonathan Bennett. “I have never encountered such an unusual offence as either a solicitor or judge… It was mind-blowingly reckless, particularly in the case of an intelligent, middle-aged man.”
Lenton says between 15,000 and 20,000 people were in attendance at the carnival.
A week prior to the carnival, the Dronesafe app showed that drones would be banned in the area while the flypast was actively happening. Bagguley had apparently checked the app early in the day, but had connectivity issues and could not check the time of the restriction.
Bagguley wrote a letter of apology and owned up to his wrongful actions. His letter read: “I wish to state my gratitude and relief that there was no contact with the Hurricane. I owe the pilot an apology for putting the pilot and others at risk on that day and can only thank God that no incident occurred.”
For more information about UK drone and model aircraft rules, visit the UK Civil Aviation Authority website.