back to article French teen fined for illegal drone flight

The 18-year-old French lad who strapped a GoPro to a drone 'chopper and used it to produce a noteworthy aerial video of the city of Nancy has been fined €400, Le Figaro reports. Nans Thomas bought the vehicle on the internet and sent it aloft without realising he needed proper training and air authority permission. The …


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  1. RISC OS

    sounds like a typical nancy boy

  2. ratfox

    Totally worth it

    Of course, it might be easier for me to pay than for him, but considering how cool the result is, I would not regret anything.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I would not regret anything ("ratfox")

      Oh very good Mr ratfox... bet you thought nobody would notice that cunning fox use of words.....

      "I would not regret anything" a.k.a ....... "non, je ne regrette rein"

      (uneducated readers of The Register may wish to peruse the freetard's favourite encyclopaedia for the words "Edith Piaf") :-)

      1. Pookietoo

        Re: peruse the freetard's favourite encyclopaedia

        While you should consult a French/English dictionary, which would reveal that "rein" means kidney.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is similar to the Japanese F40 video. The guy filmed himself doing 200MPH then sold the video in various enthusiast magazines. The fine was massive...but not as massive as the profits he made from the video sales. I am willing to bet that the advertising revenue from the popularity of the video (and subsequent views consider the press this will get) will more than pay for the fine.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stupid bureaucrats

    And then the stupid French wonder why their country is going down the toilet, when any initiative or imagination is met with fines and official harassment?

    What's the betting that the same would be true here? We have legions of officials going around stopping people doing this or that without permission. SACK THEM ALL.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stupid bureaucrats

      Yeah -- imagine it being illegal to fly a drone over tourist areas in a city without a license. If I want to fly my drone over Piccadilly Circus then why shouldn't I be able to?

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        1. dogged

          Re: Stupid bureaucrats

          > In fact - shall we do it? Forty of us putting a tenner in would pay this fine.

          I'm in. How do we go about it?

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            1. VinceH

              Re: Stupid bureaucrats

              "I guess the first bit is to find ~40 interested people..."

              My tenner is ready and waiting.

              1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

                Re: Stupid bureaucrats

                There was no credible to risk to anyone. This is a completely disproportionate fine. I've 10 euro here to chip in to that fund.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Stupid bureaucrats

            "Forty of us putting a tenner in would pay this fine."

            That'll show the bureaucrats! Forty people fined E400 each should have them rubbing their hands nicely.

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        2. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up

          Re: Stupid bureaucrats

          I'd have to mail you a moneyorder, but, sign me up.

      2. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

        Re: Stupid bureaucrats

        It wasn't the imagination that was fined, it was the unlawful drone flight. Flying is regulated around the world (and the laws are pretty much the same everywhere).

        The laws for UAV are inherited from model aircraft and in fact vary considerably around the world. Here in the UK the flying side of things is basically open season for models under 5kg. Law on trespass does limit the land you can fly from or over but in the case of public land that is determined by council bylaws rather than national legislation.

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        2. Steve Evans

          Re: Stupid bureaucrats

          I would expect attempting to get permission to do something similar would get you bounced from pillar to post by a dozen faceless bureaucrats over the course of several weeks without ever finding anyone that had the vaguest clue who you need to talk to or what you need to do.

          At that point you'll either give up, or just do it anyway (but anonymously!).

      3. Fink-Nottle

        Re: Stupid bureaucrats

        > It would be the same here; such a flight would be contrary to the Air Navigation Order.

        That's not entirely true. In the Nancy case the teenage apparently lacked proper training and air authority permission to fly in an urban space. The Air Navigation Order merely states that "The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made."

        There are more restrictive ANO rules that apply to unmanned surveillance aircraft, but using a camera to record the flight of a small unmanned aircraft does not equate to surveillance - a distinct activity carried out "for the purpose of influencing, managing, directing, or protecting" people or property.

        (In Mr Knowles' case, his model aeroplane strayed into a no-fly zone over a BAE facility which is entirely different kettle of three-eyed fish. )

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          1. Fink-Nottle

            Re: Stupid bureaucrats

            > "In this article ‘a small unmanned surveillance aircraft’ means a small unmanned aircraft which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition."

            > This aircraft is clearly covered.

            We'lI have to agree to disagree, because I don't think it's clear at all. A camera is necessary but not sufficient to equip an aircraft for surveillance. However, if Knowles was 'done' under the 50m rule then clearly the judge was of the opinion that S167 applied.

    3. N2

      Re: Stupid bureaucrats


      You'd think the local Office de Tourisme would now be using it, but regrettably they dont seem to have the faintest idea about promoting anything apart from Puy de Fou over here.

    4. Amorous Cowherder

      Re: Stupid bureaucrats

      Bloody right!

      Bloody nann(c)y state! Typical they just don't care about art or interesting stuff, all they care about is not having a few tourists being seriously injured by an unauthorised flying machines! How selfish can they be to only be thinking about the safety of people instead of some dingbat who should have thought the whole thing through first! Tch!

    5. grumpyoldeyore

      Re: Stupid bureaucrats

      At the start of the 20th century the French authourities became so fed up with balloons crossing the alps that they started charging the intrepid aviators import duty on the hydrogen. The same fate befell E.T Willows when he became the first person to fly the Channel from England to France.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stupid bureaucrats

      I is Frenchman. And I is totally agree.

      Our country is led by shit faces people, our ministers are pedophile, everyone knows it and still they are here, TV, government everywhere, spreading their shit to crush down France.

      His vvideo is beautiful, he should have been helped by the Nancy's mayor office, because that is one hell of a promotion video.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Stupid bureaucrats

        > our ministers are pedophile

        Well, at least they think of the children.

        Bad taste, I know.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stupid bureaucrats

      Because 30kg of kit falling 50m into a crowd presents no public safety concerns at all...

  5. Jason 41

    "...needed proper training?"

    No, sorry.

    I would need proper training, given the video I would say Nans knew exactly what he was doing

  6. Chad H.

    No point in moving bub, I'm sure when Single-European-Sky comes in it wont matter where you are.

    Dont get me wrong, it has some advantages in cross border licensing and cooperation, but its also a pain in the ass.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > I'm sure when Single-European-Sky comes in

      I don't think you know what the Single European Sky is. In any case, UAVs, model aircraft, microlights, and a bunch of other stuff is still the remit of national aviation authorities (EASA threw them a bone, as it were) which is probably why they're going to get anal about all those things. Lots of people with jobs to justify and stuff.

  7. Dan 55 Silver badge

    I can't believe that there's more bureaucracy in France than in Spain. People might follow the rules more in France than in Spain, but that's something altogether different.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There isn't. Spain just recently disallowed all drone flights everywhere; except in special 'permitted zones'.

      Frankly, it should depend on the type of drone...a petrol-powered monster is an entirely different proposition to -say- a Parrot. A Parrot isn't going to chop anyone up even if it does fall on them...especially if it's got the bumper on.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not knowing anything about France I couldn't say whether there is more or less bureaucracy than Spain but I doubt it could be any slower. In Spain it would be quicker to grow wings than get permission for just about anything.

      We are currently coming up to the first anniversary of possibly many of submitting a planning application for a new house in a village of 21 habitants. The back of the house will be more than 14m from the road so we need special exemption from the rules firstly from the town hall then from the regional junta. The town hall says that the planning rules are going to change and they are not processing any applications untill after they have, this could be years. That's the latest excuse because they didn't know about the rule changes until four or five months after our applicaction.

  8. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    400 EUR!?!!

    Well, that kind of money sure will go towards rebuilding all those train stations suddenly discovered to be "too narrow" for the GDP-boosting new rolling stock.

    "In Hollandaise France, GDP boosts YOU!"

  9. RainForestGuppy

    I read that as...

    illegal Drone fight!! Much more interesting.

    I think that could be the next big spectator sport drone fighting. Sort of Robot Wars 3D, "This time its vertical".

    Hands off Sky, Bernie Ecclestone et al, I thought of this first!!

    I'm also thinking of ProCeleb Drone fighting....

    In the blue corner, The USAF 174th Fighter wing with a Reaper MQ-9 vs Danny Dyer with a Parrot AR. v2

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I read that as...

      FPV racing that's the next big thing. Hide a quad/hex or bunch of them on some multi-storey roofs, solar panels natch. Come the race time all your mates down the pub watching real time as UAV, (or cars/bikes) appear in the town centre and battle to the death while the CCTV tried desperately to work out where the users are hidden.

      1. PC Paul

        THIS is a racing quadcopter

        There is a newish design of quad that is designed for extreme stunt flying and 3D racing - for instance a course marked out down the side of a cliff...

        Unlike normal quads that use a variable speed motor per rotor and fixed pitch props, the Stingray 500 uses a single larger motor with belt drive to each corner (well proven in 4x4 racing buggies) and collective pitch on each rotor.

        It gives it amazing manoeuvrability compared even to acrobatic quads. Want.

    2. Scroticus Canis

      Re: I read that as...

      Need to work on the rules for that idea given the mentioned first fight pair.

      Are the Yanks allowed Hellfires and is targeting the enemy control operation (poor Danny) allowed? Hmm, would the Yanks follow the rules or just go "Oops, another blue on blue".

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: I read that as...

      Does the loser die? If so I'm sure can come up with a comprehensive list of participants with (insert fcuk nugget of choice) top of the list!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Give him a job!

    The City of Nancy should be employing him to promote the city. Could do building inspections to. I sense a business venture.

  11. Peter Galbavy

    ... and where do Parrot hail from?

    The irony here also being that the most successful consumer drone maker is French. I am no longer sure of the figures but the AR.Drone and AR.Drone 2.0 have sold in their hundreds of thousands globally...

  12. caradoc

    "In court, Thomas pleaded guilty to charges of unauthorised use of a drone and "endangering the lives of others"

    I can think of a certain guy across the Atlantic who might be of interest to the French in this regard. But then again, maybe not......

  13. Steven Roper

    What about a kite?

    He could just as easily have attached his camera to a kite. and taken some photos, at least then he wouldn't have been fined. Unless flying kites is now illegal. Given the ongoing erosion of basic freedoms and simple pleasures that has characterised this century so far, it sadly wouldn't surprise me.

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  14. RobHib

    Spectacular, but at what ultimate cost?

    Now, I've been to Nancy quite awhile ago but I don't remember seeing the city in such a spectacular way.

    Wow, with images of that quality possible and drones now cheap, this is only the beginning. Even if illegal, reckon there'll be those who'll even be prepared to sacrifice the hardware for such high quality data.

    With anonymous radio links and drones dumped in some inaccessible place at the end of a run (in the ocean etc.), then the evidence about perpetrators might be difficult to come by. One thing's for certain: with high definition cameras and tiny drones now easily available, we can say 'we ain't seen nothin' yet.'

    And with the privacy issue already with us and spiraling out of control--not to mention its potential to put Google Earth to shame (such as flying 'disposables' over military targets already blanked out in Google Earth thus exposing them) then I reckon this technology is in for a very rocky ride.

    (Remember, the US classified encryption as a munition and it got Phil Zimmermann into a lot of trouble when PGP was exported. This camera/drone technology has incredibly powerful uses and there's huge (and easy) potential for it to be abused, thus it could easily come under similar control. Seems to me that unless there's some resolution about how it's to be used then governments are likely to make its possession by the hoi polloi illegal. Let's hope that doesn't happen.)

    ...Meanwhile I'll drink to Nans Thomas for a splendid effort.

  15. Florida1920
    Black Helicopters

    Hang on....

    They should have given him a suspended sentence.

  16. skeptical i

    The Nancy Chamber of Commerce and Tourism should have paid his fine ...

    ... and agreed to a generous royalty scheme for use of his footage. My donut says his a- freaking- mazing video did more to shift visitors (and their spend) into Nancy city limits than whatever the Chamber's efforts netted.

    1. Steven Roper

      Re: The Nancy Chamber of Commerce and Tourism should have paid his fine ...

      Why would they do that? That way they incur the cost of his fine and have to pay him for the footage.

      Instead, they can now confiscate his footage as the proceeds of criminal activity, therefore he forfeits all rights to it. The government gets to use his footage for nothing, they can even charge the Nancy Chamber of Commerce for the use of it and pocket the profits themselves, AND he has to pay them for the act of obtaining it.

      That's how the world works these days. The benefits of copyright and ownership of things are only for our lords and masters, not for the likes of you and me.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Poor reporting using unexplained acornym

    I suspect (UAV) stands for "unmanned aerial vehicle". I was guessing Unauthorised Airborne Vehicle.

    It is not a commonly used acronym so why expansion.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Poor reporting using unexplained acornym

      > It is not a commonly used acronym so why expansion.

      Why the downvotes to the fellow poster above? He is correct: it is poor form and impedes communication to use acronyms where there is a reasonable chance that a part of your audience may not know what the acronym stands for.

      While I have an aeronautic background and therefore know well what UAV means, why should a reader who is, say, a database administrator be equally privy to its meaning?

  18. SeymourHolz


    When drones are outlawed, only outlaws will have drones.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Business Opportunity

      I am starting Zoom With A ViewTM, renting drones by the hour for useful and esthetic purposes.

      It starts and lands in Monaco, where laws are more permissive.

      Pls send €10 to this account if you are interested in crowdfunding.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How to I apply

    To be added to the terrorism watchlist, because the way this boy has been treated makes me want to join whichever "freedom fighter" organisation will use my unique skills.

    you can contact me on <redacted> <redacted>

  20. earplugs

    Thanks, great video!

    Beautiful shots, I always wondered what Nancy looked like.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vive la France

    I find it amazing that anyone could be fined for producing such a truly beautiful video.

    I just hope it goes viral on Youtube, makes him some moolah and becomes the basis for a worldwide "free the drones" movement.

    "When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear drones is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."

    With apologies to Thomas Jefferson.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. Vive la France

    I second that, a crowdfunding campain comes to mind.

    2E from everyone who watched the video would go a long way towards helping AND provide a war chest for having this travesty appealed and the boy's record cleared.

    In this climate of thoughtcrime and hearsay just having a caution on your record can debar you from some jobs, notably sales and IT.

    Travesty doesen't do this justice, a better comparison is the invasion of Poland by Hitler in the 1930s.

    Viva la Revolution!

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