Manx Grand Prix: Race fan fined for flying drone near TT course

A motorcycle enthusiast who flew a drone at the Manx Grand Prix during road closures for the races has been fined £3,000.

Thomas Rudd, 25, was seen flying the craft near Ballaugh Bridge during a visit to the island on Sunday.

Regulations ban the flying of drones within 1km (0.6 miles) of the TT course during qualifying and race periods.

Deputy High Bailiff Rachael Braidwood said the use of drones in forbidden areas could "lead to disaster".

Douglas Courthouse heard that race control was alerted to a drone being flown in the area of Ballaugh Bridge at about 16:15 BST, shortly before the start of the Senior MGP race on the final day of racing at the event.

A spectator took a photograph of the drone operator, which was passed on to police.

The picture showed Rudd, of Boulby Drive in Loftus, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, standing next to the Ballaugh Commissioners noticeboard wearing a black hooded top and tracksuit pants holding a drone controller.

When police arrived in the area Rudd was seen sitting in the driver's seat of a black BMW, and his clothes matched those in the picture, the court heard.

The drone was found in a bag when the vehicle was searched and it was seized.

The court was told Rudd was heard telling three other men in the car with him to go and watch the racing because "this is my mess" when he was arrested.

When interviewed he told police he had flown the drone more than 1,000m (3.280ft) away from the course, but the footage showed it was within just 200m (656ft) of it.

He pleaded guilty to piloting a remote unmanned aircraft within 1km of the TT course.

'No excuse'

His defence advocate said he had only been using the drone for about 15 minutes and had been filming the surrounding countryside rather than the course itself.

He had "no idea" what he was doing was illegal and there was no suggestion he had caused a nuisance to anybody, she added.

Sentencing him, Ms Braidwood said not being aware it was an offence was no excuse.

She said drones posed a very serious risk to motorcycle racers and could also pose a danger to the helicopters used to transport injured riders during qualifying and race periods.

"The use of a drone can lead to disaster and is taken very, very seriously," she said.

While it had been flown for a relatively short time, the penalty would be a "substantial fine", she added.

Rudd was also ordered to pay £125 in court costs.

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