Drone Enthusiast Fined for Dangerous Flights Near Major Event and Airport

In a recent brush with the law, a drone hobbyist in the United Kingdom was slapped with a hefty fine after recklessly piloting his device in restricted areas. Daniel Cesare, 36, faced substantial charges after flying his drone near East Midlands to capture aerial views of the Download rock festival at Donington Park, Leicestershire. Notably, this location falls within the airport's “flight restriction zone.”

Cesare, a resident of Spondon, Derby, reportedly pleaded guilty to a slew of offenses, including:

  • Flying an unmanned aircraft in a flight restriction zone without permission (two counts)
  • Surpassing the altitude limit for drone operations (two counts)
  • Piloting his drone beyond visual range (two counts)
  • Failing to exhibit a mandatory registration number on his drone

Furthermore, Cesare accepted responsibility for an additional 13 drone-related infractions. As a result, South Derbyshire Magistrates' Court ruled that his DJI Mavic 2 drone be confiscated and destroyed.

Upon facing the magistrates, Cesare confessed, “I wasn't aware of the restrictions and laws. I should have researched more. It was a new hobby to me.”

However, magistrate Guy Wildgoose sternly rebuffed his defense, stating, “ignorance of law is no defence whatsoever.” He added, “You were operating in the Weston-on-Trent and Shardlow area and you can't have been unaware of the proximity of East Midlands Airport.”

Cesare was slapped with a fine of £1,008 (equivalent to $1,350) – a markdown from the original £1,512 (about $2,025) following his plea. Moreover, he was mandated to shoulder court charges of £85 (roughly $114) and an extra surcharge of £403 (translating to $540).

The Download Festival, a renowned music event, spanned from 8 to 11 June, drawing a crowd exceeding 130,000. During its course in June, Cesare operated his drone on two distinct days.

Prosecuting solicitor Peter Bettany highlighted that in 2022, errant drone activity during the festival led to the airspace being sealed off on at least four occasions.

This prompted Derbyshire to deploy “counter-drone officers” for the 2023 festival, which featured stellar performances by bands like Metallica, Slipknot, and Bring Me The Horizon.

Cesare's drone maneuvers on 10 June particularly raised alarm bells. Initiating his flight from Aston-on-Trent's Recreation Centre, he flew his device an astonishing 1,670m (5,479ft) away – a stark violation of the 500m (1,640ft) regulatory limit. Reliant on a mobile app for navigation,

Drone Enthusiast Fined For Dangerous Flights Near Major Event And Airport

Cesare grossly exceeded the permissible altitude, soaring to 1,640ft (500m) – a potential hazard for aircraft. Adding to the recklessness, some footage was shot at night, amplifying the risk factor.

Upon detecting the drone's activity, local law enforcement swiftly located Cesare, seizing both his drone and mobile phone.

A subsequent review of his equipment's data revealed prior illegal flights. One such instance involved launching from King's Mill Lane, near Weston-on-Trent, Derbyshire, covering a distance of 841m (2,758ft) and reaching an altitude of 1,637ft (499m).

In addition to the penalties, the court ordered the confiscation and destruction of Cesare's DJI Mavic 2 drone and mobile phone, sending a strong message about the consequences of flouting aviation laws.

Photos courtesy of Daniel Cesare.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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