Guilty pleas for dangerous unmanned aircraft theme park flight

Date: 29 May 2014

A man who flew a small unmanned aircraft over Alton Towers, endangering the safety of the theme park’s customers, has pleaded guilty to two separate charges at Stafford Magistrates Court. The court heard Mark Spencer, 34, had flown his quadcopter device over a number of rides at the Staffordshire attraction on 9 November 2013, brining it within close proximity to people as he filmed the course of the flight using an onboard camera. The video was subsequently posted on YouTube.

Mr Spencer, of Stoke on Trent, who was standing in the car park of Alton Towers while he flew his aircraft, was charged with the following offences, once the video had been brought to the attention of the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

(1) Not maintaining direct, unaided visual contact with a small unmanned aircraft
Articles 166(3) and 241(6), Air Navigation Order 2009

(2) Flying a small unmanned surveillance aircraft over or within 150 metres of any congested area
Articles 167(1), 167(2)(a) and 241(6), Air Navigation Order 2009.

Magistrates fined Mr Spencer £150 for each offence (£300 total) and ordered him to pay a contribution towards the CAA’s costs of £250.

The CAA said the case sent a message to recreational users of small unmanned aircraft that the devices are subject to aviation safety rules.

More information on the regulation of small unmanned aircraft is available at

For further press information, contact the CAA Press Office on: 0207 453 6030 .


Notes to Editors:

Operating rules for small unmanned aircraft:
• An unmanned aircraft must never be flown beyond the normal unaided ‘line of sight’ of the person operating it. This is generally measured as 500m horizontally or 400ft vertically.

• An unmanned aircraft fitted with a camera must always be flown at least 50m distance away from a person, vehicle, building or structure.

• An unmanned aircraft fitted with a camera must not be flown within 150m of a congested area or large group of people, such as a sporting event or concert.

The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include: making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards; preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency; planning and regulating all UK airspace; and regulating airports, air traffic services and airlines and providing advice on aviation policy.