Drone Pilot Jailed After Near-Miss with Aircraft at Aberdeen Airport

Estimated read time 3 min read

A drone pilot in Aberdeen, in the United Kingdom, has reportedly been jailed for endangering aircraft by flying his drone dangerously close to planes and helicopters near Aberdeen International Airport. Scott Finnie’s reckless actions breached strict no-fly zone regulations, risking catastrophic accidents and lives.

Close Calls in Restricted Airspace

Scott Finnie, 36, faced Aberdeen Sheriff Court after two separate incidents where he flew his drone perilously close to aircraft. In the first incident, occurring between June 16 and 17, 2020, Finnie flew his drone above the abandoned Cordyce School, less than a mile from Aberdeen International Airport’s runway. The drone came alarmingly close to a helicopter.

A few weeks later, on July 12, 2020, Finnie flew his drone alongside a fixed-wing aircraft just 1.4 miles from the runway near Breedon Dyce Concrete Plant. Both flights blatantly violated the no-fly zone regulations designed to protect the safety of aircraft and passengers.

Court Proceedings and Sentencing

At his court appearance, Finnie pled guilty to two charges of culpable and reckless conduct. Sheriff Philip Mann, who presided over the case, emphasized the gravity of Finnie’s actions, stating that any collision could have led to a catastrophic loss of life. Mann noted, “If you had applied for permission, it seems you would not have been given it to fly a drone at that time.”

Despite Finnie’s necessary registration and certification for his drone, his failure to seek permission from the airport proved crucial. His defense agent, Grant Daglish, described Finnie’s actions as naive, explaining that Finnie was unaware of the requirement to obtain permission.

Sheriff Mann sentenced Finnie to six months in jail, reflecting the seriousness of endangering aircraft. He remarked, “I don’t see an alternative to a custodial sentence.”

Risks and Regulations

A spokesman for Aberdeen International Airport reiterated the dangers posed by drones in restricted zones, stressing, “It is illegal to fly any drone at any time within the restricted zones unless you have permission from air traffic control at the airport. Drones of all sizes pose a massive risk to the safety of aircraft in flight.”

The spokesman acknowledged that most drone owners comply with the law and thanked them for their cooperation in maintaining safety.

DroneXL’s Take

This drone incident underscores the critical importance of following regulations when flying drones, especially near airports. While drones offer exciting possibilities for various applications, the potential risks to aircraft cannot be underestimated. This case serves as a stark reminder that safety must always come first. Drone operators should ensure they are fully aware of and compliant with all regulations to prevent dangerous incidents and promote responsible drone use.

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