Two drone pilots arrested for violating FAA regulations

DJI Phantom 3
A DJI Phantom 3 drone flies at the Drone World Expo 2015



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21 January 2016 | 0

The Los Angeles City Attorney filed criminal cases against two drone pilots on Wednesday for allegedly flying their drones in controlled airspace.

The charges are the first under a new city ordinance that restricts drone flights to less than 400 feet, during daylight hours and not within five miles of an airport. The rules mirror Federal Aviation Administration regulations and carry a maximum penalty of up to $1,000 in fines and six months in prison.

In each incident, the drones in question were spotted by a Los Angeles Police Dept. helicopter.

Both Michael Ponce, 20, and Arvel Chappell, 35, were charged with flying above 400 feet and within five miles of an airport. Chappell was also charged with flying at night.

In the first incident on 9 December Ponce was allegedly observed flying a drone over Griffith Park, which is within three miles of a number of hospital heliports. Police met him in the park and seized his drone.

On the second incident, just three days later, Chappell allegedly was observed flying within a quarter of a mile of Hooper Heliport. That’s not a great location to fly a drone, as it’s the LAPD’s downtown Los Angeles helicopter base. An LAPD helicopter coming in to land allegedly had to alter its flight path to avoid the drone.

The Federal Aviation Administration has been scrambling in recent months to educate drone pilots on the need to follow air safety flight rules after a spate of reports from pilots about high-flying drones.

In late December, the agency launched a drone registration program that asks pilots to register before flying. The programme is primarily intended to be one of education and asks pilots to confirm they understand the basic rules of drone flight before completing the registration.

Drone regulations came into force in Ireland on 21 December 2015 requiring owners of craft weighing over 1kg to register with the Irish Aviation Authority.

Irish legislation prohibits users from operating their drones if it will be a hazard to another aircraft in flight; over an assembly of people; farther than 300 metres from the operator; within 120 metres of any person, vessel or structure not under the operator’s control; closer than 5km from an aerodrome; in a negligent or reckless manner so as to endanger life or property of others; over 120 metres above ground level; over urban areas; in civil or military controlled airspace; in restricted areas such as military installations or prisons; and unless the operator has permission from the landowner for takeoff and landing.

It is estimated there are between 4,000 and 5,000 drones in use in Ireland.

IDG News Service


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