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VIDEO: Drone flight lands French teenager in court

Joshua Melvin · 14 Feb 2014, 12:46

Published: 14 Feb 2014 12:46 GMT+01:00

“Nancy seen from the air” (Nancy vu du ciel) a stunning short film put together by 18-year-old Nans Thomas quickly racked up some 400,000 views in a matter of days after it was posted on the online video sharing site Vimeo.

The beautiful images of spires, churches and plazas of the historic north-eastern French town were captured in a unique way by attaching a go-pro camera to a drone.

At one point the video was reportedly even hosted on the social interactive site of the regional council of Lorraine

But unfortunately for the teenager the success also caught the eye of French civil aviation authorities, who ordered an investigation, TF1 TV reported. It turns out the teenager violated two key provisions of the law according to Nancy’s top prosecutor Thomas Pison.

First, drone operators in a France have to complete a training course similar to the ones pilots must take. Then, a drone flight over an urban area requires specific written approval. Unfortunately for Thomas, he had neither.

“I had no idea you needed permission (to fly it),” Thomas told French paper Est Republican. “Nobody gave me any indication that I needed any special permission when I bought it on the internet.”  

The first bad sign came when he got a letter from aviation authorities (Direction Regionale de l’Aviation Civile) which reminded him of the rules. 

On Monday things got worse. Thomas got a call from the police who wanted to talk to him as soon as possible about the drone flight and the resulting film. He went to police and left with a court summons on charges of “endangering the lives of others.”

Prosecutors didn’t think Thomas’s little stunt was too funny.

“If the aircraft crashed in a densely populated area, the consequences can be tragic,” prosecutors told Est Republican. “The use of drones also raises the question of respect of people’s privacy.”

Here is the video. It's too bad it was filmed illegally, because its pretty spectacular.

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

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