Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor


A French teenager has been arrested and charged with endangering lives after flying a UAV and camera over the city of Nancy

teenager who filmed an aerial view of the centre of Nancy using a remote-controlled drone has been charged with “endangering lives” by flying the drone in a populated area without a licence.

The 18-year-old posted a video of Place Stanislas and other monuments in the Lorraine capital on social websites and it was viewed tens of thousands of times before being taken offline on the orders of the Préfécture de Meurthe-et-Moselle.

It had even been on the site of the Lorraine regional council social site,

Officials from the French civil aviation authority (Direction de l’Aviation Civile/DGAC) had also spotted the video and ordered an investigation.

The Nancy prosecutor told journalists it was a first in France but drones were treated as light planes as they could be dangerous if they fell on to someone in a populated area. There was also a special risk in towns of violating other people’s privacy.

Anyone who wanted to fly a drone in a built-up area should have the equivalent of a ULM [Ultra-léger motorisé – microlight] licence.

The youth, who had set up his own business called Golox to hire action video cameras and equipment for drones, has received messages of support on Twitter as he warned others of the dangers.

He was interviewed and charged this week by policemen and he will appear in court in coming months for “endangering lives”.

HDW : Superb video but what I take most out of this is that the chap “piloting” the drone is a very skilled operator indeed, fantastic shots not available to any other form other than that of a drone. I agree with one comment on a recent web site… instead of arresting this chap he should be given a medal by Nancy’s mayor for a cracking tourist information film.

Anyway how does this differ from model plane flying…you don’t need a licence to fly a model plane the drone is a model plane with a camera attached…once again its all about money…simple…it seems if you start charging for filming with a drone you change your status from amateur to professional.

Once again bureaucracy gone mad…if the drone had caused harm or damage then you have a case…but give him a telling off or a fine…this does not warrant arrest.


A member of the French Foreign Legion is expected to go before a judge on Thursday after beingarrested for piloting a small drone around the famous Paris monument.

The 22-year-old Ecuadorian, on leave from the Foreign Legion, was rumbled by police at around 11pm on Tuesday, Europe 1 radio reported.

He had reportedly been flying the drone measuring half a metre by half a metre around the first floor of the tower when he was arrested on suspicion of “endangering the lives of others”.

It’s the exact same charge that was levelled against a French high school student who landed in hot water after using his drone to make an aerial film of the historic sites in the eastern French city of Nancy.

“Nancy seen from the air” (Nancy vu du ciel) is the stunning short film put together by 18-year-old Nans Thomas quickly which racked up some 400,000 views after it was posted on the online video sharing site Vimeo.

But unfortunately for the teenager his success also caught the eye of French civil aviation authorities, who ordered an investigation, TF1 TV reported. It turns out the teenager violated two key provisions of the law according to Nancy’s top prosecutor Thomas Pison.

First, drone operators in a France have to complete a training course similar to the ones pilots must take. Then, a drone flight over an urban area requires specific written approval. Unfortunately for Thomas, he had neither.

Prosecutors didn’t think find the stunt very funny.

“If the aircraft crashed in a densely populated area, the consequences can be tragic,” prosecutors told Est Republican. “The use of drones also raises the question of respect of people’s privacy.”

No word on whether the Legionnaire could also face consequences from his commanders, who have a notorious reputation for stern discipline and stiff punishment.


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

19 thoughts on “Teenager gets arrested in France for flying a drone UPDATED “Further Arrest in Paris”

  1. But this is the problem:

    1) These things can cause problems in the hands of prats, and we all know there are plenty of them around.

    2) If you’re earning money from doing this, you are going to be accountable for what you do. You need to demonstrate this through accreditation and documentation to show that you’re NOT a (dare I type this) ‘fly-by-night’.

    UK law says that if you fly one of these things with a GoPro on it and you’re going to earn money from it, you had better know how to document what you did, get a spotter to help, and won’t be an absolute arse.

    If we say ‘oh, but he’s such an ARTIST, forgive him because he’s so good at it’ – you’re opening the floodgates to numpties who think they can earn a few bob flying one of these over childrens’ parties and earn megabucks from their footage of flying over motorways.

    And what about our current situation? Who is going to fly one of these over Wraysbury and Staines and sell the footage to Sky? What happens when it falls out of the sky and whacks somebody? Or films something nasty as it hovers over an ambulance?

    Sigh – I know it’s socially acceptable to knock H&S Madness, silly laws and so on. But I can see the logic in the UK stance on these things. France does a whole new take on it, but let’s not throw out the idea that to do this professionally needs some sort of accreditation.

    HDW : Matt you are 100% correct, part of the price should include training and when you buy one you should have to fill out a form to obtain a licence to use one.

  2. Beautiful aerial filming ! Here in Australia almost every second cameraman has a drone and some know how to fly them. I agree there will be an issue as soon as someone gets hurt and so a license and training should be necessary.

    HDW : As you know Tim the Australian doesn’t give a XXXX for any training let alone a licence 🙂

  3. I’ve been filming with drones for 2 years. You need a CAA license which involves a course and an exam. You need to keep detailed flight logs and never fly over built up areas or people. Too many of these things being mis-used will lead to them getting banned. I get asked by clients to fly in all kinds of dangerous places. You have to say no.

    The license is only required once you start charging for services.. practicing in a field somewhere is fine within reason. Lots of people using these un-licensed at the moment. It’s pretty much killed the market as people think they can buy one and get whatever footage they want. A professional will do it legally and not put people at risk.

  4. For anyone in the UK who may be thinking of getting and flying a DJI Phantom for aerial work you want to start here and read this first:

    HDW : Thanks Simon but my question is how does a quad copter differ from a model aircraft, people attach GoPros to model aircraft so where is the line drawn.
    Secondly I live in Scotland where do I get a licence up here ?

  5. Hi Philip, good question.

    The key here is the term UAV or RPAS as is now preferred.

    Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or Remotely Piloted Aircraft System. In the eyes of the CAA their isn’t a line, multirotors, model helicopters and remotely controlled aircraft are all unmanned systems and fall under the same regulations. The only other difference is weight, over 7kgs and under 20kgs you have a few more restrictions on notifying ATC when flying in certain airspace.

    The reason we’re discussing this is that multirotors are relatively easy to operate and control when compared to helis and planes.

    Multirotors like the Phantom are amazing pieces of kit with GPS which ensures you can remain in a constant hover, they also feature a return to home failsafe, whereby a switch can trigger an automated landing back to the point of take off. They’re inexpensive and people are buying a very affordable piece of kit that produces an amazing perspective.

    As soon as you add a camera GoPro in this case to any small remote aircraft, multirotor or heli you now have a Small unmanned surveillance aircraft, this means you have further regulations to comply with!

    You also want to make sure you don’t fall foul of OFCOM by using overpowered video transmitters on RPAS, the UK legal limit for 5.8GHz is 25mw.

    As for Scotland you fall under the UK CAA so you would need to go the same route as me, attend a course with either EuroUSC or Resource UAS. This process will cost in the region of £1500 and will see you sit a two day ground school with a 60 question multiple choice test in 90 mins. The test covers safety, air law and aeronautical map reading.

    When passed you are on your own to write an operations manual, mine which covers two multirotors a DJI Phantom and a Phantom 2 is 31 A4 pages long and covers safety, presite and onsite procedures as well as emergency procedures. Finally you have a flight test where you are tested on your ops manual and your flying abilities. If you pass all of the above then EuroUSC or Resource will recommend the CAA issue you with Permission for Aerial Work.

    When you fly you’ll need to keep aircraft, pilot and battery logs as well as keeping your presite and onsite survey forms for inspection.

    Safety is really key here!



  6. I’ve done a lot of Helicopter based aerial filming going back over the years and results are amazing ( as are the costs ! ). This is carried out in a highly controlled and regulated manner by professionally trained specialists who are regulated and work in close contact with the CAA.

    The details of the flight plan are carefully worked out out and communicated to the CAA for approval. This will include where and when, what height you can fly, how close you can get to buildings and public spaces, whether you are over a populated area or close to an airport.

    To film directly over a city centre you will need to work with a company that operates twinned engined machines such as Arena Aviation. Even twin engined machines are prone to failure as witnessed by the resent tragedy in Glasgow.

    I agree with what both Matt Davis and Chopper T’s point out. Accreditation and training are both vital.

    There are now many professional outfits operating drone based filming services. I’ve recently been in contact with a company called Flying Fern run by a cameraman called Roger Laxon who produces amazingly high quality footage from a drone with a C300 strapped on. They are Civil Aviation Authority certified with a permit for commercial aerial work.

    Working with them would be similar to planning any complex grip shots, with every angle considered and safety at the heart of their operation. To get the shots involves both a pilot and and a camera operator.

    It’s a thin line between a hobbyist operating a lightweight multi-rotor machine with a go-pro and the type of machines that Flying Fern use. Not wanting to be a kill-joy but you only have to imagine the result of a small drone smashing into a car on a motorway or into pedestrians in a street to see that this area does need regulating and controlling.

    And besides all of these issues there is the area surrounding privacy. Here in the UK we already have the highest proportion of CCTV and ANPR cameras in the world and I’d happily get out my sons 22 air rifle and take pot shots at one of these devices if I saw one over my garden!

  7. Many (most?) of you probably don’t remember Ham (Amateur) Radio Operators. I’ve been one since I was 12 years old (many moons ago). This is NOT to be confused with Citizens Band Radio…no license and minimal power. But ham radio, with it’s ability to use high power rigs (and interfere with various other radio/tv operations) requires a license and a test to get that license. And that wasn’t a problem, if you studied for the test. It wasn’t about fees or dollar (pounds); you just had to demonstrate that you knew what you were doing.

    Doesn’t seem that unreasonable for a drone pilot, who has the ability to do much more physical damage than a ham radio operator.

    Len Kaufman (K1BUU)

  8. The Aussies have some pretty restrictive legislation for ground based never mind aerial photographers in Ayers Rock.

    Alaska governor Frank Murkowski (R) talked about enacting a “statewide wildlife photography license” in retaliation to liberal hunting (read: firearms) objections.

    I’m all for training & education, but not permitting. Look at Hollywood (its now in Vancouver) for an example of permiting (licensing) follies.

  9. Valuable Consideration? Without an exact monetary definition how do I know if this means me?

    I’m doing a day’s work filming on the ground and need one top shot from a Phantom/GoPro. The payment I get for filming with the Quadcopter is a tiny part of my daily rate.

    And all the training in the world doesn’t stop the unit simply failing and crashing or as happens occasionally – simply flying away and never found again.

    While I accept that a large quadcopter holding a DSLR sized camera might be very dangerous if landing on someone, a tiny thing like a Phantom is completely different.

  10. Hi Duncan.

    The way to look at this is if you are hobby flying you don’t need CAA permission. If you are at work and you fly the Phantom for the purposes of capturing video for your shoot you need permission for aerial work.

    The process for gaining permission isn’t so much about learning to fly but rather learning to be safe and where to fly and not to fly.

    A Phantom 2 loaded with a GoPro weighs 1.3kg, I wouldn’t like this dropped on me, my house or my car from 100 metres, it wouldn’t be fun for either of us. No matter the size of the rig, you are flying what can only be described as a flying food blender with the potential to cause real injury.

    Most insurance companies need you demonstrate that you have permission to fly so that you are covered this applies to ACJ and John Heath.

    HDW : A lot heavier than I was expecting this is indeed a Health and Safety issue, its more a case of better to be safe than sorry.

  11. COME ON GENTLEMEN…we’re talking about a kid of 18en. Is not a criminal, is not a terrorist, he’s just one kid who was enjoying is UAV without hurting anyone.. what’s the troble now? Someone always need a license, a card, an ID, all us gotta be under control… But I tell you what: citizens are less dangerous then military bullshit (keep under silence). Just shut the f. up.
    So we gonna need a decree to avoid all pots on balconies because of some arising wind, they can fall down and go to hit someone on the street.

    Nuclear shi..t versus an 18en kid UAV pilot… Who’s gonna be worst? Politics and laws are pathetic.


  12. i think the guy filming went to far when he filmed about a meter over peoples heads as the walked on the footpath toward the end.

    one of these could seriously hurt someone, i like them and they open all sorts of possibilities but in the hands of kids these are dangerous – man gets to realise how important life is at around 30+ before then it’s drink drugs and dumbassness.

  13. I can see the cost/effort to get certified but is there not also likely to be significant additional costs for commercial insurance?

    As one person here indicated, the consequences of one of these machines falling onto a car could result in serous liabilities.

  14. So yet another hobby bites the dust. WE dont need more laws just education and the correct use of existing law. As a hobby these things should be allowed under common sense rules. Dont fly over people other peoples property without permission, roads etc. If there is malicious intent there are plenty of far more serious laws that can be used.
    Professionals should be licensed and trained as they do fly over sensitive sites and people. There equipment should also be subject to control. There are far greater threats to public safety such as hate preachers and religious doctrines but I dont hear much said to ban or regulate those.

  15. I’ve been flying a Quad for about 5 years. I don’t have a commercial license – and don’t fly commercially but in the last couple of years, the hysteria associated with drones has made it almost impossible to fly at all.

    I flew on a friends farm with his permission. The nearest house over a mile away – but still the police turned up and demanded to know if I had a license, flight logs etc. They said I was endangering potential dog walkers (who would be trespassing, and there were none). They didn’t take any action but said if they spotted me flying again I would be arrested!

    I think the whole thing has gone too far. I never get any hassle flying fixed-wing but flying a quad – you are automatically a criminal. God forbid you fly with a camera – then you are a peeping tom!

    I’d like to see some kind of ‘novice license’ similar to that for Amateur Radio where you have to undertake some flight training, possibly pass an exam and are given leave to fly certain limited classes of aircraft under clearly defined conditions.

    The cost & difficulty makes it un-viable for most people to get a current license. A novice license that is more accessible would likely increase the uptake and make flying safer for everyone.

  16. P.S. The Police asked if I had posted any video on YouTube? Apparently, because you CAN make money from advertising (even if you personally don’t) – it makes it commercial and I would be breaking the law! I quickly deleted everything I had posted!

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