Man loses appeal over flying UAV in restricted airspace

By Chang Wen-chuan and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sat, Sep 08, 2018 - Page 3

A man who flew an uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) in restricted airspace in December 2016 has been fined NT$300,000 (US$9,748) after his appeal was rejected.

The man, surnamed Hung (洪), posted photographs and video footage from his drone on Facebook after flying the device above Chongyang Bridge (重陽橋) in New Taipei City’s Sanchong District (三重).

A complaint was submitted to police after a Facebook user said the footage was captured in restricted airspace of Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport).

Hung was fined after the Aviation Police Bureau confirmed the footage as being within the airport’s 5km-radius restricted airspace, but Hung filed an appeal, claiming that he was not aware of the parameters of the no-fly zone.

The Taipei District Court on Wednesday ruled that unfamiliarity was no basis for exemption from the law and upheld the fine.

During the appeal, Hung said he was under the impression that anything past Taipei Bridge (台北橋) was outside of the restricted zone.

Hung also said that he had no recollection of flying the UAV on the day in question, saying that he had only stood on the bridge, as it was raining and the weather was not ideal for taking pictures.

The bureau said Hung admitted to flying the UAV on the day in question during questioning before the first trial.

The photographs the bureau downloaded from his Facebook page clearly showed that the drone had flown to a height of between 15m and 20m, in violation of the restrictions, the bureau said.

The location of the flight was determined through Google Maps data to be 4.34km from the airport, within the restricted zone, it said.

The restrictions are in place to protect the safety of planes at airports, the bureau said, adding that it imposed the lightest fine possible on Hung.

Fines for breaching airspace restrictions are between NT$300,000 and NT$1.5 million.

Hung told the bureau ahead of the first trial that he had just bought the UAV and wanted to test it near the bridge, which he often passes, it said.

He said he enjoyed the scenery there and filmed for only 12 to 15 minutes, but stopped when it began to rain, it said.

All civilian airborne devices, including balloons, UAVs and fireworks, are prohibited in the airspace extending 5km within 35° from both ends of the runway, as well as 2.6km on either side of the runway.

Between 5km and 10km from the runway, civilian airborne devices are prohibited above 60m.