Man Fined $3,600 for Flying a Drone Too Close to ‘Priceless’ WW2 Airplane

A man has been fined £3,000 (about $3,604) and given a six-month suspended prison sentence after he was found guilty of flying a drone too close to a “priceless” World War II-era plane last summer.

In January, Mark Bagguley, a United Kingdom-based drone pilot, pled guilty to charges of endangering a World War II-era Royal Air Force plane when he flew his drone too close to it in July of 2022, DroneDJ reported. The incident took place at Buxton Carnival –an event that takes place within the Peak District of Derbyshire during the first two weeks of July each year — and Bagguley put his drone in the air despite knowing that a flyby was about to take place.

Neither the police nor the pilot of the plane, which was one of only 12 airworthy Hurricane planes left in the world, were aware that the drone was in the air. A no-fly alert had been issued for the area, a warning that Bagguley knowingly ignored.

“It is the last Hurricane ever built and it is considered priceless,” prosecution barrister Annabel Lenton told Derby Crown Court.

At the time of the incident, police said that the pilot and people watching in the crowds below the aerial show would have been killed had the two aircraft come in contact with one another.

“Any drone in the air will pose a danger to any manned aircraft,” PC Matthew Moore, flight safety manager for the drones team at Derbyshire Police, says. “We had 15,000 to 20,000 persons present at Buxton at the time. That would have caused a catastrophe in its own right.”

The only reason Bagguley faced consequences for his actions was that a photographer happened to capture the Hurricane flyby and after taking a look at the images he shot after the event, noticed the drone.

“To be honest, until I had got the photos on the computer I didn’t know the drone were flying,” the photographer, who opted to remain anonymous, tells the BBC.

“At first it looked like a bird or something like that, and then I zoomed it in and you could see the drone.”

He reported the event to the Civil Aviation Authority, who then told him to contact the police. After searching social media for anyone who might have taken aerial photos that day, Bagguley was identified, arrested, and his drone seized. Authorities were able to confirm that his drone had been in the air by checking its recorded flight data which overlapped with the flight path of the Hurricane.

“I owe the pilot an apology for unnecessarily putting his and other people’s lives at risk that day. I can only thank God that no collision occurred,” Bagguley wrote in a letter apologizing for his actions, which was read in court.

The BBC reports that Bagguley has been fined £3,000 and been given a six-month suspended prison sentence. He has also been ordered to complete 100 hours of community service and will be electronically monitored so that he obeys a curfew at his home.

Image credits: Cpl Phil Major ABIPP, Wikimedia Commons