A New Zealand man has been convicted and fined after he crashed his drone into a trainee paraglider in 2018.
The drone and paraglider collided mid-air at Kariotahi Beach, south of Auckland.
According to court documents, the DJI Phantom 3 drone collided with the paraglider about 100 metres above the ground, and became entangled in one of the paraglider’s brake lines, making steering difficult.
Luckily, the paraglider managed to land unhurt, however was shaken by the incident.
The man, a recreational drone pilot, was convicted at the Manukau District Court on Thursday, and fined $1,000 for operating a drone in a manner that cause unnecessary endangerment, and failing to give way and keep clear of a manned aircraft.
He is the first to be convinced in New Zealand for a crash between a drone and a manned aircraft.
Dean Winter, the deputy chief executive of aviation safety at the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand, said it was extremely lucky that the paraglider was not killed or seriously injured in the crash.
He added that he hopes Thursday’s conviction of the drone pilot will encourage other drone users to rigorously follow CAA drone rules, which specify that pilots must keep their drone within sight, and land immediately when manned aircraft are nearby.
“This conviction shows there can be real consequences when drone users fail to follow the rules and put the lives of others at risk through their lack of understanding or carelessness,” Winter said.
“Although the pilot of the paraglider was able to safely walk away after the collision, the accident was deceptively dangerous and it was only down to sheer luck and the skill of the paraglider that there wasn’t a death that day.”
The drone pilot’s conviction and fine followed a judge-alone trial, where Judge Mina Wharepouri found the man guilty of the laid charges.
The drone pilot, who purchased his drone in 2016, reportedly told the court that he was not aware that Karioitahi Beach was popular with paragliders.
The man did admit that he saw a paraglider fly past him while he was at the beach, though argued that his action on the day of the accident were without fault.
However, Judge Wharepouri stated that the man should have immediately landed his drone when he became aware of the paragliders, and appreciated that this drone “might pose a hazard to others in the air sharing the same airspace”.
The judge also stated that the man was not following CAA guidelines, and was overly reliant on tracking the drone via its screen, rather than keeping the drone within his direct line of sight.