A drone is flown for recreational purposes in the sky above Old Bethpage, New York on September 5, 2015.
A drone flying in Old Bethpage, New York on Sept. 5, 2015. Bruce Bennett—Getty Images

A Man Who Accidentally Knocked Someone Out With His Drone Has Been Sent to Jail

Updated: Mar 01, 2017 3:45 AM ET

A Seattle man whose careening drone knocked a woman unconscious at a parade in 2015 has been given a 30-day jail sentence and fined $500. It's likely the first time a custodial sentence has been dolled out for a drone crash in the U.S., the Verge reports.

Paul Skinner, who owns an aerial photography business, was sentenced on charges of reckless endangerment Friday by Judge Willie Gregory of the Seattle Municipal Court. Gregory, who recognized the crash was accidental, said the punishment was nevertheless warranted because Skinner had “engaged in conduct that put people in danger of being injured.”

The U.S. has seen a number of arrests and fines pertaining to drone crashes. As recently as Tuesday, the NYPD were said to be looking for the owner of a GoPro Karma Drone that reportedly crashed through a Manhattan apartment window. But neither the Center for the Study of the Drone nor the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) knew of a precedent for jail time when the Verge reached out to them for comment.

That might be a factor of the still spotty regulation of drones in the U.S. Save for a few designated public recreation areas, flying drones is prohibited in New York City—where the GoPro Drone crashed through a window this week. However in Washington, where Skinner was sentenced, lawmakers are reportedly mulling a new bill to regulate drones.

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According to the AUVSI a patchwork of local laws that overlap or contradict rules set up by the Federal Aviation Administration would "erode, rather than enhance, aviation safety." In a letter quoted by The News Tribune the organization's President Brian P. Wynne wrote: “If enacted, the [Washington] bill would create inconsistencies with federal law, stifle innovation, and jeopardize current and future jobs in the growing unmanned systems sector in the state.”

Still, it might be preferable to having eagles claw wayward drones from the sky—a tactic piloted in France to counter potential drone-borne terror attacks.

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