Flying a drone always comes with some form of associated risk, and even with the improved safety features you should always adhere to your local laws and regulations. Mandatory drone registration in the US has been in place for just over a year now and the laws that govern their use have become a lot more stringent. Even though there have been numerous incidents of drones being illegally flown and used, most incidents result in fines and not jail terms- that is until now. Photographer Paul M. Skinner has been sentenced to 30 days in jail for a 2015 incident at the Seattle Pride Parade where his drone collided with a building and then fell down onto a woman, knocking her unconscious.
According to an article written in the Seattle Times, Paul Skinner was found guilty of reckless endangerment. In addition to his jail term, he was handed a $500 fine. The Seattle Times also mentioned that the city’s prosecutor was actually trying to get a longer 90-day prison term, claiming that misusing drones represent “a serious public-safety issue that will only get worse.”
This was the first time the Seattle City Attorney’s Office has charged anyone with mishandling a drone in a public space. If the 30 day sentence and $500 fine weren’t enough, a May 25 hearing has also been set to determine the amount of restitution Skinner owes the woman who was injured for her medical treatment.
Skinner’s attorney told the Seattle Times that he will appeal the verdict. While the appeal is pending, Skinner will not have to serve the 30 days in jail or pay the fine. Even if Skinner’s appeal is successful he will still be required to take a certified class on drone safety under the terms and conditions of the sentence that was imposed
The article didn’t mention what sort of drone was being used, but the fact that the incident happened back in 2015, it’s safe to assume that drone didn’t feature the latest obstacle avoidance systems found in some of the currently available offerings on the market.
This latest ruling by the court may be bad news for the owner of the drone who crashed into Seattle’s Space Needle on New Year’s Eve. That incident is still under investigation.