A drone pilot has been convicted and fined $1000 in a landmark case after his recreational drone collided mid-air with a paraglider.
Judge Mina Wharepouri found the man guilty in October on two charges under the Civil Aviation Act 1990 after his drone was used in a manner causing unnecessary endangerment, and failing to keep clear of a manned aircraft.
The incident happened in 2018 between a drone and trainee paraglider at Karioitahi Beach near Waiuku.
In his judgement, delivered in the Manukau District Court yesterday, Judge Wharepouri found the drone operator had been overly reliant on the view from his drone’s camera and failed to maintain visual line of sight of the drone when he hit the paraglider about 100m above the ground.
He convicted and fined the drone pilot $1000.
It is the first prosecution in New Zealand over a collision between a drone and manned aircraft.
The Civil Aviation Authority is welcoming the conviction, saying it was a “deceptively dangerous” crash which could have easily ended in tragedy.
The authority’s deputy chief executive aviation safety Dean Winter said it was lucky the paraglider wasn’t killed or seriously injured in the collision, and he hoped this case served as a wake-up call to other drone users.
“This conviction shows there can be real consequences when drone users fail to follow the rules and put the lives of others at risk through their lack of understanding or carelessness,” Winter said.
“Although the pilot of the paraglider was able to safely walk away after the collision, the accident was deceptively dangerous and it was only down to sheer luck and the skill of the paraglider that there wasn’t a death that day.”
The conviction demonstrated the authority’s commitment to take occurrences involving the dangerous use of drones seriously, particularly when there was a threat to other aircraft or people on the ground below.
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