UK drone operator arrested for filming football matches

18 Mar 2015

Drones image via Gregor Hartl/Ars Electronica/Flickr

In the latest legal battle involving drones, a 43-year-old drone operator from Nottingham in the UK is facing a court battle over footage he took above football stadiums while games were going on below.

While the players down below are just about visible, the copyright-concerned premier league, and terrorism-conscious police, have seen to putting an end to Nigel Wilson’s recording of games which he was putting up online for viewers to see goals from a totally new perspective.

According to the Metropolitan Police’s statement on the matter, Wilson has been summoned to the court with regard to nearly 20 different incidents where footage was recorded towards the end of 2014, including one of the big London derbies between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

The court order follows a recent trend not just in the UK, but in places like the US, where the number of personal drone owners is increasing at a considerable rate, and law enforcers are attempting to legislate for laws that would limit their use considerably. The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) recently issued a cease-and-desist order for one person uploading footage from his drone to YouTube.

Acts were ‘irresponsible behaviour’

In the UK at least, much of Wilson’s charges are related to the Air Navigation Order 2009, which is commonly cited in UK drone cases that require the pilots to be within 500 horizontal metres of the craft at all times and must not fly near a venue with more than 1,000 people, something which obviously causes problems with respect to stadiums that typically hold more than 20,000 people.

Speaking to The Independent in the UK, a lawyer who is involved in a number of drone-related cases, Peter Lee, said Wilson’s activities were foolish and dangerous.

“There have been plenty of warnings about illegal use of drones and so ignorance is unlikely to be a realistic excuse for the pilot,” said Lee.

“The House of Lords recently said that they predict thousands of jobs to be created by the commercial drone industry in the UK and there are already hundreds of safe, professional drone pilots earning a good living. This sort of irresponsible behaviour could have a major impact on that objective if it is not firmly addressed.”   

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic