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Man Gets 30 Days in Jail for Drone Knock-Out

The sentence may be a first in US history.

The owner of an aerial photography business has been fined $500 and been sentenced to 30 days in jail for piloting his drone into a group of people and knocking a woman unconscious during a 2015 parade. Paul Skinner, 38, was found guilty of reckless endangerment by Judge Willie Gregory of the Seattle Municipal Court, who stated that while the injury was accidental, Skinner had still “engaged in conduct that put people in danger of being injured.” As such, he found that a punishment was in order.

This isn’t the first time that someone has been arrested or fined as a result of flying a drone, but it may be the first time in US history that jail time is involved. Arthur Holland Michael, co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard college, said he had never heard of a similar sentence before, and neither had Tom McMahon, vice president of Advocacy and Public Affairs at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

One reason for this is certainly that drone flight until recently has been largely unregulated. This is changing across the world however, as privacy concerns and safety concerns of having flying cameras everywhere are starting to worry authorities and citizens alike. Washington state, where Skinner was sentenced, is currently in the process of drafting such laws. Meanwhile, the drone industry at large is opposing such regulations, stating that local laws would cause a mess of rules that overlap and contradict laws already put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“It was an accident!”

Laws like the ones proposed in Washington would “have the potential to create a complicated patchwork of laws that will erode, rather than enhance, aviation safety,” wrote Brian P. Wynne, President of the AUVSI, “If enacted, the bill would create inconsistencies with federal law, stifle innovation, and jeopardize current and future jobs in the growing unmanned systems sector in the state.” Certainly, the effect on jobs in the industry can already be seen: New laws have recently been put in place in Sweden, banning camera-equipped UAVs from being flown without an expensive permit, thus largely killing the market for many hobbyists.

Regardless of what laws may be put in place, one must feel a little sympathy for Skinner, who declined to comment about the story. His attorney reached out to the Seattle Times, saying that he felt the punishment of jail time was “too severe” for an act that wasn’t intentional.

source: Seattle Times

David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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