Henry Blackshaw Secures Acquittals in “Drone” case

The defendant was indicted at Minshull Street Crown Court on two counts of recklessly endangering aircraft, each relating to passenger jets which had near misses (“airproxes”) with a remotely operated drone at approximately 800 feet above Cheadle. This was when the planes were on their final approach to Manchester International Airport (MIA). One was a British Airways Airbus, the other a Jet2 Boeing 737.

The prosecution case was based on a combination of eyewitness and technical evidence.

Witnesses on the ground described the flying of a drone above a park in Cheadle to heights that gave rise to concern, prior to the defendant then landing his drone in that park. One then identified him to the police who subsequently seized his drone and its controller and arrested him.

The planes’ aircrews described the drone and its proximity to their aircraft.

The police downloaded flight traces from the defendant’s iPad, by which his drone was controlled. This showed that the drone had been flown to heights on the afternoon concerned which could have brought it into conflict with the aircraft. Additional evidence was obtained from the air traffic control (ATC) at MIA. This included radar records of aircraft movements and the ATC radio communication recordings.

Case preparation by Henry included cross referencing the ATC material with that from the drone controller. This showed inconsistencies between the respective data sets. Consequently the prosecution expert was asked by the defence to extract the raw data from the chip or “black box” within the drone itself.

This data was further analysed by Henry, who was then able to show that the drone operated by the defendant could not have been that which came into conflict with the aircraft subject of the charges.

This analysis was eventually accepted by the prosecution, which then discontinued the proceedings two weeks before the trial date.

Henry, who specialises in aviation work, was instructed by Mortons solicitors.