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Old December 31st, 2014, 02:15 AM   #1
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Drone Pilot arrested whilst drone in air

Just came across this story.

Photojournalist arrested after filming with drone near Gatwick airport | UK news | The Guardian

A photojournalist with all the right credentials was arrested whilst operating his drone mid flight. It's a strange story because the guy had already told the police what he was doing and had the CAA permission to work certification.

So having handcuffed him the police then had to land the (phantom) drone. I can only think that he might have annoyed them by not doing what they wanted immediately and I think the scene he was trying to film was a particularly tragic one where a mother and 2 children had been killed in a caravan fire.

Other news photos of the scene show the caravan park through a police cordon. So for me, legality and common sense aside, the question is whether we really need aerial shots of the scene of a raw tragedy involving children.
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Old December 31st, 2014, 02:34 PM   #2
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Re: Drone Pilot arrested whilst drone in air

Welcome to todays news.
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Old January 1st, 2015, 06:24 AM   #3
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Re: Drone Pilot arrested whilst drone in air

An ethically minded cameraman would know that this job was a troublesome one that probably should not have been done. A morally minded cameraman would not have done it.
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Old January 1st, 2015, 09:18 AM   #4
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Re: Drone Pilot arrested whilst drone in air

I have to agree, I don't think we need this kind of ghoulish footage.

I can't help but wonder what would be the ramifications of some kind of accident caused by the drone while the police were messing about with it, they obviously were not skilled in its use.

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Old January 1st, 2015, 10:49 AM   #5
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Re: Drone Pilot arrested whilst drone in air

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Dobson View Post
A photojournalist with all the right credentials was arrested whilst operating his drone mid flight. It's a strange story because the guy had already told the police what he was doing and had the CAA permission to work certification.
It is a strange story, and I can't help thinking it's one where the devil's in the detail - and that's what we don't know. It seems unlikely he had told the police on site what he was doing, then all of a sudden - with drone in air - they got upset enough to arrest him without further warning?

In a way the CAA permission is a bit of a red herring - you may have a valid car driving licence, but if a policeman tells you "you can't drive down that road", you're breaking the law if you do so.
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Old January 1st, 2015, 01:13 PM   #6
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Re: Drone Pilot arrested whilst drone in air

I can confirm that the drone pilot, who is fully CAA accredited and has all the necessary expertise to fly the drone, HAD informed the police of his intentions.

The police decided to arrest him because the caravan community being filmed became upset and there was the prospect of a "breach of the peace".

But rather than stop any breach of the peace emanating from the community, the police decided instead to arrest the journalist - who was operating entirely lawfully, whatever your view on the ethics - so as to remove the source of the community's irritation.

He was later released without charge though the drone was kept confiscated until the next day.

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Old January 1st, 2015, 03:10 PM   #7
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Re: Drone Pilot arrested whilst drone in air

I think it highly probable that the police could see a situation arising with the residents becoming upset and instructed the journalist to stop what he was doing to avoid the residents becoming aggressive. The Journalist probably took the high ground and pointed out his permit to fly and refused to stop flying for his own selfish reasons. If he also attempted to resist the police stopping him flying, then he would quite rightly be in breach of the peace.

In sensitive cases, the police are quite within their rights to use their own judgement to protect people's privacy and a journalist has no free license to ignore their instructions, legally or morally. If he thinks the police were in the wrong, he can take legal action against them, but I think he would end up losing.

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Old January 1st, 2015, 03:55 PM   #8
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Re: Drone Pilot arrested whilst drone in air

Would it be cynical to wonder if the enraged community who we cannot even call by the name we've called them for years is the reason for the somewhat unusual action? Rights are a funny thing nowadays.
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Old January 1st, 2015, 05:17 PM   #9
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Re: Drone Pilot arrested whilst drone in air

You are probably right about the community Paul, but I'm sure that it would be inappropriate to take close arial pictures of any site at which three people had just been burned to death and was still being investigated by police. It would certainly infuriate me if it was my own family that had suffered. The communities that you are referring to are usually very private close families, whatever else they may be.

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Old January 1st, 2015, 06:01 PM   #10
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Re: Drone Pilot arrested whilst drone in air

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Johns View Post
The police decided to arrest him because the caravan community being filmed became upset and there was the prospect of a "breach of the peace".

But rather than stop any breach of the peace emanating from the community, the police decided instead to arrest the journalist - who was operating entirely lawfully,........
The question to then be asked was if he was requested to stop filming before his arrest - or did they simply go up to him with "you're under arrest"!?

Because if the police fear a breach of the peace, my understanding is that they have the power to request anybody to desist from any activity, leave the scene, whatever. It's only if any individual then refuses to comply in reasonable time that they should then be liable to arrest.

Even if he was acting lawfully in the first place (CAA permissions, notified police etc) then the moment the officer in charge asked him to desist, if he then refused to do so, it's my understanding that he could then be seen to NOT be "acting lawfully" any more. The best reference I've found is Practical Law ? Books - which is applicable in the UK, and any failure to cooperate (ie refusal to land the drone immediately) could likely put him in breach of "Obstructing a Police Officer in the course of his duties".

The law is necessarily grey in the whole area, but my understanding is that any officer in such a situation would have to have in his mind that he may have to explain his actions to a superior later - and the word "reasonable" takes on huge legal significance.

*IF* the drone operation was (reasonably) seen as likely to give offence, *IF* the operator refused to promptly comply with a request to land, then I suspect the police officer would be found to have acted "reasonably". If the drone operator was just getting on with his job and was arrested without warning, it's a different matter.

I don't think who the community is has any relevance to the matter. What is relevant is whether the police think anyone is behaving in what might be described as a "provocative" manner, or in such a way as to cause unnecessary offence. In this case, with the deaths of a mother and two young children, then flying a drone above the area is at best tactless and hardly surprising if it caused a strong reaction. General CAA authorisation has nothing to do with it. It's in principle no different to a photographer going up close to the scene of a fatal car crash to take obtrusive photographs.

Sadly, I can see it as just one more nail in the coffin of tighter and tighter restrictions on drone usage. It seemed as if "light touch regulation" might win the day (at least in the UK). Episodes like this can end up as ammunition in the hands of the "anti-drone" lobby, who may use such to argue along the lines of "see, he was licensed, but even then they can't be trusted".
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Old January 1st, 2015, 06:25 PM   #11
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Re: Drone Pilot arrested whilst drone in air

the police in the UK had a bad reputation in dealing with anyone with a camera since at least if not befoer the Anti Terrorism Act came into being, some were over the top zealots about it, while others approached it in a calm and sensible manner, after a good number of instances, one which I remember reading about, where a photographer covering a wedding was arrested! the police put together a guidance document, which i'm aware a good number of photographers in the UK always pack in their bags, I'm not sure if the Surrey force have the same thing, but this one is from the Met Photography advice - Metropolitan Police Service which gives all kinds of advice in dealing with the media and the general public including distressed/bereaved people, which is what Mr. Mitchell was arrested for, I dont think it was the fact that it was a drone, I suspect if he attempted to get any type of coverage with any device the cops would have arrested him, morals aside wrongly.
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Old January 1st, 2015, 07:16 PM   #12
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Re: Drone Pilot arrested whilst drone in air

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I dont think it was the fact that it was a drone, I suspect if he attempted to get any type of coverage with any device the cops would have arrested him, morals aside wrongly.
The laws which he may have contravened seem to be "behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace" rather than anything specifically to do with photography, drone or whatever.

So (legally) the same as if he had been shouting abuse. The reaction I'd expect would be for the police to ask him to desist, issue a warning, then only arrest if he continued with such behaviour.

So the key question is as said earlier - was he requested to stop filming before his arrest - or did they simply go up to him with "you're under arrest"!?

From the link I posted earlier it gives the following case law example:
"3.31 Therefore in Albert v Lavin[35] an off-duty police officer was entitled to use reasonable force to detain someone who jumped the queue at a bus stop, in order to prevent the other passengers assaulting him and a breach of the peace occurring."

So there may not be law as such to prosecute simple queue jumping - but if any action may reasonably be seen as "provocative", a police officer is entitled to take action to stop the situation escalating. If such a situation did escalate, then anybody committing an assault would likely be charged with such, but may plead "provocation" as a mitigating circumstance. But it's in the general interest to stop any situation escalating in the first place.
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Old January 2nd, 2015, 01:31 AM   #13
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Re: Drone Pilot arrested whilst drone in air

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The question to then be asked was if he was requested to stop filming before his arrest - or did they simply go up to him with "you're under arrest"!?
I don't think either side come out particularly well in this story.

The moment of arrest is shown In a video posted and accessed via a google search around this story.

VIDEO: The moment a freelance cameraman is arrested by police | Meridian - ITV News

The approaching officer is heard saying ' Sir, this is a final request can you please bring your drone down' The pilot responds ' I will but with you coming at me like that I cannot control this plane' The situation then breaks down with the photographer saying 'you cannot do that'

So what can be deduced from this is that the aerial camera operator had been previously asked to bring his machine down but had continued filming and that the police officer overreacted rather than allowing the operator time to bring the craft down.

It can also be seen that that the pilot seems to be operating from a safe location away from people. It would seem that the Police Officer snapped and grabbed at the remote.

So I think the pilot was operating in a safe and legal manner technically and that he would have avoided any confrontation if he had complied with the initial request to desist filming or taking photographs. But it would seem that he stuck to his guns despite being asked to stop.

I'm really not a fan of ambulance chasing photojournalism, especially in case like this where a mother and 2 children have died tragically but think that the aerial photographer was probably within his rights.

But with more drones being used for journalistic purposes it would be good to try and establish a code of ethical working practices when dealing with situations such as this.
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Old January 2nd, 2015, 04:05 AM   #14
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Re: Drone Pilot arrested whilst drone in air

Having filmed at quite a few hard news events in the past involving deaths, it would seem that the photojournalist in this case seems to have failed the attitude test. Shooting these news stories there's point where you know where you've pushed the boundary to its limit, stayed for that extra grabbed moment, but know you have reached the time to withdraw.

In this case, the policeman approached in a non threatening manner having seemingly;given previous instructions to stop, while the photojournalist seems to give the impression (from the tone of his voice. although we can't see his body language) that he may be continuing to stall for time. The latter could have defused the situation (humour helps) and brought the drone back by how he interacted with the police, by conveying that he knows that the time limit has finally been reached.
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Old January 2nd, 2015, 07:13 AM   #15
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Re: Drone Pilot arrested whilst drone in air

At a banger racing circuit I just happened to be mere feet away from a pretty interesting looking crash, but the driver didn't get out, and just sat there, and eventually the officials realised something was wrong, and then it was a comedy scene trying to remove the roof, the battery powered saws were flat, and eventually a real fire engine arrived and removed the roof quickly.

I shot the crash and about a minute of the aftermath, then got surrounded by people pushing and shoving, wanting me to stop shooting - I persevered for a few minutes but it just heated the situation even more and eventually I gave in and stopped. Perfectly within my rights, but certainly a breach of the peace would have happened if they had persisted. Withdraw and be safe. My sound man was twenty or so feet away, and he wasn't taking any chances, he saw the crowd around me and beat a retreat. Not sure who was actually the sensible one.


Look at the Top Gear Argentina Special - even through all the spin and editing, you can see it was serious stuff - and looking at the Discovery, they were pretty lucky.
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