Drones operator summoned to court over flying ‘surveillance aircrafts’ above football grounds and palaces

Nigel Wilson is alleged to have filmed football matches at stadiums belonging to Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, Leicester, Derby, Arsenal and Manchester City, as well as royal palaces

Andrew Griffin,Jamie Merrill
Wednesday 18 March 2015 12:45

A man has been summoned to court over flying a surveillance drone to film football matches and royal palaces.

The Met Police today said that Nigel Wilson, of Nottingham, is accused of flying the drones over Buckingham Palace and a number of Premier League football grounds.

In all, police said that Wilson is alleged to have flown surveillance drones over Liverpool’s Anfield, the Nottingham Forest Stadium, Leicester’s King Power Stadium, Derby Stadium, Arsenal’s Emirates, Stoke’s Britannia Stadium and Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. Police also say that drones were flown over Westminster and the Queen Victoria Memorial at Buckingham Palace, as well as along the North Bank of the River Thames.

Pilots of drones can be charged under the Air Navigation Order 2009. Flying drones through congested areas without permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) contravenes that order.

The CAA has been working to educate the public about the rules on drones, as the quadcopters have surged in popularity. As the number of drones in the sky soar, politicians and aviation groups are worried that the small flying machines could endanger people on the ground as well as real flights.

A spokesperson for the CAA said: "We can confirm that we have assisted the police in preparing this prosecution. There are clear rules and regulations in place regarding the flying of drones in the UK and it is the responsibility of users to spend time fully understanding what those rules are."

Peter Lee from Taylor Vinters LLP, one of Europe’s leading drone lawyers, said: “this type of drone flying is clearly dangerous and breaches the rules of the air under the Air Navigation Order, which is a criminal offence. I’m delighted to see the Met police taking such a proactive stance here – along with the Civil Aviation Authority they should be congratulated.

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

Drone films of football matches have proved popular on YouTube, with many receiving thousands of views. Many of the filmmakers behind the films remain anonymous, though it appears that the films below were taken at the same games referenced in the police press release.

On that page, there are a number of videos of the football stadiums mentioned — including the Emirates — as well as videos of stately homes and palaces, and towns like Cambridge.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments