Los Angles: The owner of an aerial photography business in the US has been sentenced to 30 days in jail after a drone he was operating knocked a woman unconscious in 2015.
The sentence, which also included a USD 500 fine, was imposed on Paul M. Skinner, 38, by the Seattle Municipal Court, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
Skinner was earlier found guilty of reckless endangerment by the judge.
The case marked the first time the City Attorney’s Office has charged anyone with mishandling a drone in a public space, The Seattle Times reported on the February 24 sentencing.
The incident happened during Seattle’s 2015 Pride Parade. According to the police, the 45cm by 45cm drone crashed into a building and fell into the crowd, injuring two people.
Judge Willie Gregory said he acknowledged that the incident was an accident but added that the pilot had “engaged in conduct that put people in danger of being injured”.
Prosecutor Pete Holmes said the faulty operation of drones was a “serious public-safety issue that will only get worse” and more prosecutions could follow.
Ravi Vaidyanathan, a drone expert from Imperial College London, said he was “not aware of anything previously resulting in jail time”.
He told the BBC that it was inevitable more accidents would follow and called on the regulatory bodies that governed drone use to provide “a consistent set of guidelines on usage”.
“In the US, there are rules for commercial use but different ones for hobbyists,” he said. “In the UK, rules are governed by the size of aircraft,
so in my understanding anything under 20kg can be flown without regulation.
“We are in uncharted territory, but the guidelines have to be consistent.”
During the past fiscal year, over 1,200 possible collisions between an aircraft and a drone were reported to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA was unable to confirm any strikes, but it has reported several close calls, including a Lufthansa jet approaching Los Angeles that passed within 60m of a drone.