A man who flew a drone over a handful of high-profile landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, has been convicted following the first successful conviction of its kind.

Nigel Wilson, 42, of Rockingham Grove in Nottingham, pleaded guilty on Tuesday during a hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court to seven offences contrary to the Air Navigation Order 2009.

It comes after he had already pleaded guilty to two further offences at an earlier hearing on May 7.

He was fined £1,800 and ordered to pay £600 costs, and was also issued a Criminal Behaviour Order banning him from purchasing, owning or flying any drones for two years.

The court heard how Wilson illegally flew his drone over various football stadia across England, including Arsenal's Emirates stadium, as well as buildings in busy central London.

These included the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, HMS Belfast and even the Shard, all 310m of it.

On each occasion, the court heard Wilson did so without direct sight of the craft, an offence under the Air Navigation Order.

Like offences included flying over congested areas, or where the drone was flying within 50m of the surrounding buildings.

Police on Tuesday released footage recorded by Wilson to illustrate the sort of locations he was said to be recklessly flying his drone.

Nigel Wilson: Docked nearly £2,500 for drone offences


District judge Quentin Purdy said Wilson had shown a “flagrant disregard” for people’s safety.

“At each and every one of these places, an accident could have occurred simply by a gust of wind or something of that nature taking it out of your control,” said the judge.

“In each and every case you knew what you were doing. Several times you were warned by police, who seized drones from you, and on numerous occasions by people posting on your YouTube channel.

"It was the height of arrogance in terms of public safety,” the judge added.

His defence counsel said Wilson was a hobbyist who had put "a great amount of time" into building his flying skills. He was ordered by the judge to forfeit his drone equipment.

Wilson flew his drone over the north London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham on September 27, 2014, and over Buckingham Palace and the Thames on October 9 the same year.

Chief Inspector Nick Aldworth from the Met Police's Specialist Operations Command, who is the Met's lead officer on the misuse of drones, said: "As drones become more widely available, it's important anyone using this type of small aircraft understands there are strict regulations on how and where they can be flown and that police, in partnership with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), will look to prosecute anyone who does not follow these rules.

"Flying drones over congested areas or buildings can pose great risks to public safety and security and Wilson put many people in real danger.

"Today's outcome [September 15] should serve as a warning to anyone thinking of doing similar that they could end up in court if they ignore these regulations."

The drone used by Wilson

'Not appropriate'

In September 2014, Wilson flew his drone illegally over Liverpool's Anfield stadium and posted the resulting footage on YouTube.

The incident saw Wilson fly the drone near mounted officers, startling the horses which reared and narrowly avoided hitting members of the public.

Wilson went on to fly his drone over stadia in Derby, London and Manchester between September and December 2014, all on busy match days.

He was arrested and bailed by Greater Manchester Police on October 18, 2014, and was further arrested and charged by the Met Police in January this year following a joint investigations with the CAA, which was also aware of his flying activities.

It was only when Wilson's footage was reviewed that police and the CAA discovered the extent of his offending, including the incidents in central London.

He was summonsed in May when he pleaded guilty to two charges before returning to Westminster on Tuesday where he pleaded guilty to seven additional charges.

No evidence was offered in respect of another eight charges.

A spokesman for the CAA said: "As this case shows, anyone flying a drone needs to understand that there are safety rules in place which have to be followed.

"These rules are there to protect the safety of the general public and other airspace users.

"It is clearly not appropriate to fly a drone over large crowds of people or close to buildings and the CAA will continue working with the police to ensure these safety rules are upheld."

The legislation states, under article 166 and 167 of the Air Navigation Order, anyone flying a drone must:

  • Keep the drone within "line of sight" at all times, that is no more than 400ft vertically and 500m horizontally.
  • Take responsibility for avoiding collisions with other people or objects - including aircraft.
  • Not fly the drone over a congested area (streets, towns and cities).
  • Not fly the drone within 50m of a person, vehicle, building or structure, or overhead large assemblies of people, such a spectators at sporting events or concerts.
  • Obtain permission from the Civil Aviation Authority to use a drone for any kind of paid work or commercial activity.