This Illegal Drone Footage Resulted in a $1,900 Fine

A drone pilot from the U.K. has been fined $1,900 (£1,500) after he illegally flew his DJI Mavic 2 over a music festival and close to an airport.

In a strange turn of events, the Derbyshire police force posted Daniel Cesare’s footage, filmed in June, in the above video detailing the drone pilot’s crime.

However, while Cesare’s work ended up “published”, he paid a heavy price for it. The drone pilot pleaded guilty to seven counts, including flying an unmanned aircraft in a flight restriction zone without permission, failing to comply with the maximum operation height, failing to keep an unmanned flight in sight, and contravening a requirement to display a registration number.

Cesare flew his drone above the legal limit of 400 feet and was so far away from the device that he could not see it while thousands of revelers enjoyed Download Festival, a heavy metal music festival that was headlined by Metallica and Slipknot.

Drone footage
Daniel Cesare’s drone footage showing Download festival and East Midlands Airport.

The pilot appeared in court last Friday (August 25) for sentencing when a judge ordered he pay the fine of $1,281 (£1,000) and pay costs of $108 (£85) and a victim surcharge of $512 (£403).

According to DroneDJ, Cesare attempted to plead ignorance to the magistrates’ court.

“I wasn’t aware of the restrictions and laws. I should have researched more. It was a new hobby to me,” Cesare said. But magistrate Guy Wildgoose shot back at Cesare, “Ignorance of law is no defense whatsoever”.

Police constable Stephen Booth said: “Twice he took his aircraft into the restricted airspace of East Midlands Airport, on the first occasion as an aircraft was in the process of landing.

“He showed disregard for the tens of thousands of people attending the Download Festival and their safety, flying the drone out of his line of sight ran the risk of him losing control of that aircraft which could’ve had catastrophic consequences.”

Counter-Drone Officers

At the 2022 Download festival, people flying drones had caused the airspace to be shut four times so for 2023, Derbyshire police deployed “counter-drone officers.”

Once the police had detected Cesare’s drone, they tracked him down to his location and seized his drone and mobile phone. They looked through the data to see he had been illegally flying the day before too.

In case the fine wasn’t bad enough, magistrates also ordered Cesare’s phone and drone to be forfeited and destroyed.

Perhaps Cesare should have read PetaPixel’s recent editorial titled: “It just isn’t worth the effort to put a drone in the air anymore.”