drone crowd
May 16, 2015 - The audience reacts as a drone flies low over a crowd, now becoming commonplace at events. (Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal)

A drone pilot based in Seattle has been sentenced to 30 days in jail after he lost control of the drone and crashed it into a crowd. The culprit, Paul Skinner, 38, was found guilty of reckless handling after losing control of his drone during a parade, and knocking a woman in the crowd unconscious.

According to police reports, the 25-year-old woman was standing in the crowd when Skinner lost control of the device and flew towards the victim, impacting her in the head. The victim’s boyfriend caught her before she hit the ground. A firefighter present on the scene treated the woman to safety and made sure to immediately take her to a hospital to treat for injuries.

Skinner owns a professional aerial photography company. The drone measured 18 by 18 inches, with a weight of 2 lbs and cost nearly $1,200 USD.

drone in crowd
Drones are pushing the boundaries of cinematography in crowds, while taking a step back on public safety.

The Seattle Times reported that Willie Gregory of the Seattle Municipal Court said Skinner that everyone had acknowledged the incident as an accident and was non-malicious. However, Gregory pointed out that Skinner had engaged in a conduct that jeopardised the safety of the public, and therefore he was required to be punished and imposed a penalty of $500 fine. A stark contrast to the $9000 fine received by Aussie fellow ‘Tim’ for picking up a sausage with his drone his local Bunnings, in Australia.

Incidentally, Pete Holmes, a Seattle City Attorney pressured the judge to pass a much longer sentence of 90 days instead, citing reckless handling of drones will result in compromising the safety of the general public and that the issue would only get worse as the popularity of drones increases.

According to the city attorney, this event is the first of its kind in Seattle where a person was charged in connection with improper handling of a drone.