Three arrested for flying drones over Hong Kong Formula E event
Police say the act seriously endangered public safety; others call for related regulations to be amended
Three men were arrested at the Formula E event on Sunday for allegedly operating drones over the race track area in a move considered to be “seriously endangering public safety”, police said on Monday.
Police confirmed the trio were arrested on Lung Wo Road after three drones were spotted flying over the racecourse at about 4.30pm as the main event – the Hong Kong ePrix – kicked off on the streets of Central.
“The three [drones] were found flying over the race event in Central, seriously endangering public safety,” a police spokesman confirmed. “Police arrested three males aged 28 to 42, suspected of breaching the 1995 Air Navigation (Hong Kong) Order.”
The three were released on bail and must report back to police next month. The case has been handed to Central police district officers for investigation.
“Police urge residents not to engage in reckless acts that would affect public safety in crowded places,” the force said. The suspects are understood to have breached article 48 of the order.
While aircraft weighing less than 7kg – classified as small aircraft – do not require certification, article 48 stipulates that “a person shall not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property”.
They also cannot fly within 50 metres of residential areas or individuals, within five kilometres of an airport nor above 300 metres.
Hobbyists and those who use such devices for work have called for more accommodating government regulations.
Civic Party lawmaker-elect Jeremy Tam Man-ho, an airline pilot, believed there were grounds for the arrest as model aircraft were forbidden in the vicinity of both sides of Victoria Harbour – one of several designated aircraft approach and take-off paths.
It is for this reason that flying drones through a fireworks show is also illegal. But Tam added: “That being said, I agree that the 1995 order should be amended as drones were not a consideration back then.”
Tam suggested tighter oversight over professional or commercial use and for mandatory safety labelling to be included in the packaging of all recreational-use drones, including information about Hong Kong’s no-fly zones.
Earlier this year, transport minister Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said local drone regulations would be reviewed. He said the aim was to strike a balance between their use for recreational and work purposes and the protection of public safety.