Essex drone snapper dealt with by police for steamy train photos

Thou shalt not fly within 150m of people or built-up areas

A drone photographer who took pictures of the Tornado steam engine has been given a community punishment by Essex Police in the UK – after Network Rail complained his craft was being flown too close to a railway line.

The force said in a statement that the 28-year-old man from Kirby Cross, who it declined to name, "was dealt with by means of an agreement contract with Essex Police and given a community resolution".

His actions were said to be in breach of the Air Navigation Order 2016, which is the law on how UK airspace may be used.

The man had taken photos of the Tornado steam engine and was selling them in a local shop, police said. This is not permitted unless one has permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to operate as a commercial drone flyer.

The drone photographer took his pictures of the steam engine on August 12 this year when it visited Essex, passing Colchester and Kirby Cross on its way to Walton-on-the-Naze, on the east coast. Network Rail reported the drone flight to police on the following Wednesday, and the operator was identified and "reported" on October 1 for his breach of the Air Navigation Order. Police said the man had flown the drone "within 50 metres of other people and property out of their control".

The CAA's Dronecode explains that, legally, one cannot fly a drone within 150m of crowds or built-up areas.

Tornado is unique because it is the only British steam engine ever to have been built in the 21st century, following decades of public fundraising.

PC Paul Lindup, who investigated, said in a statement: "This is the first drone incident Essex Police has dealt with and we along with the British Transport Police are clamping down on illegal use of drones and will be prosecuting more infringements. The British Transport Police carried out a similar process on Thursday, September 28, with a second operator reported to court.

"If you witness what you believe to be a dangerous use of a drone please contact 101 or email drones@essex.pnn.police.uk stating the location and time and any evidence you can gain of the offence."

Wendy Welsh, head of air operations at Network Rail, added in a statement: "Only our team of highly trained authorised pilots and specialist-approved contractors are permitted to fly drones near the railway. It's just too dangerous for anyone else to fly a drone near the railway and you could face a penalty of up to £2,500." ®


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