A drone operator’s attempt to capture stunning aerial shots of the Download rock festival from above has led to a substantial fine of nearly £1,500 ($1890).
Daniel Cesare, found himself in hot water after flying his drone near Donington Park, Leicestershire, where the festival took place. This location is adjacent to East Midlands Airport, within the designated “flight restriction zone.”
Cesare’s actions violated multiple aviation regulations. He not only exceeded the legal altitude limit of 400 feet (122 meters) but also flew his drone far beyond the point of visual contact. The 36-year-old operator, from Spondon, Derby, admitted to seven separate offences, including:
- Operating an unmanned aircraft within a flight restriction zone without authorization twice.
- Failing to adhere to the maximum allowable flight height twice.
- Losing sight of the drone during flight twice.
- Disregarding the requirement to display a registration number.
Furthermore, Cesare confessed to an additional 13 drone-related infractions, which were taken into consideration during sentencing at South Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court.
The incident occurred during the June 2023 edition of the Download festival, known for its lineup featuring renowned bands such as Metallica, Bring Me The Horizon, and Slipknot. To prevent similar disruptions to airspace as seen in the previous year’s event, Derbyshire Police deployed “counter-drone officers” to monitor drone activity.
Cesare’s drone was initially spotted by police on June 10, 2023. It had been launched from Aston-on-Trent, Derbyshire, and flown a staggering distance of 5,479 feet (1,670 meters) – well beyond the permitted 1,640 feet (500 meters) radius. The operator relied solely on an app displayed on his mobile phone screen to track the drone’s position, as it had gone beyond the “visual line of sight.”
Further investigation revealed that Cesare had repeated his unlawful drone operation on the previous day. Flying from King’s Mill Lane, near Weston-on-Trent, Derbyshire, he covered a distance of 2,758 feet (841 meters) at a height of 1,637 feet (499 meters), once again surpassing legal boundaries.
In his defence, Cesare expressed his lack of awareness regarding the legal restrictions. “I wasn’t aware of the restrictions and laws. I should have researched more. It was a new hobby to me,” he told the court. However, Magistrate Guy Wildgoose firmly stated, “Ignorance of the law is no defence whatsoever,” highlighting that the operator was operating within close proximity to East Midlands Airport and, therefore, should have been aware of the restrictions.
The court ruled that Cesare must pay a fine of £1,008 ($1269), which was reduced from £1,512 due to his guilty plea. Additionally, he was ordered to cover costs of £85 ($107) and a surcharge of £403 ($507). His DJI Mavic 2 drone, used to capture the footage, was confiscated and destroyed, along with his mobile phone.
The severe penalties handed down in this case serve as a stark reminder of the importance of learning and adhering to drone regulations wherever you are flying. This drone pilot definitely found out the hard way after numerous violations led to a hefty fine of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Different countries often have different laws regarding drones. It is simply not worth the risk of flying one in a restricted zone.