China / Society

3 prosecuted for unmanned flight in Beijing skies

By An Baijie (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-23 07:56

Military scrambled fighters and helicopters to intercept aircraft

Three men are being prosecuted for flying an unmanned aircraft to take survey and mapping photographs of the ground in Beijing.

Because the flight had not been cleared in advance, the military sent two fighter jets and two helicopters to intercept the craft.

The defendants, all from an aviation technology company in Beijing, were accused of endangering public safety. A court in Beijing's Pinggu district filed the action, and the case will be heard soon, an unidentified official at the court told China Daily on Wednesday.

According to prosecutors, the defendants manipulated an unmanned aircraft, which took off from a road in Mafang township in Pinggu district on Dec 29 to carry out surveying and mapping tasks.

The unknown aircraft was picked up on radar, and the Beijing Military Area Command dispatched the fighter jets and helicopters to intercept it. A total of 1,226 military staff, 26 radar technicians and 123 military vehicles were deployed in response to the flight, prosecutors said.

The unmanned aircraft, measuring 2.6 meters wide and 2.3 meters long, was flying at a speed of 100 km/h at a height of 700 meters in the eastern area of Beijing Capital International Airport when it was intercepted, according to the civil aviation authorities.

The police found that more than 10 commercial flights at the airport were delayed because of the photo flight, and two commercial aircraft had to change course to avoid a collision. Air China reported an economic loss of more than 18,000 yuan ($2,940) due to the photo flight.

The police caught two men, surnamed Qiao and Li, as they flew the aircraft by remote control. Another individual, surnamed Hao, confessed after being contacted by police, the authorities said.

Prosecutors said the defendants should have known that their activities might endanger public safety, but they went ahead with the photo flights anyway, causing economic losses.

Under current rules, flight vehicles may not take off without first getting approvals from the local civil aviation authorities, the air traffic control bureau and the air force. Civil aviation authorities are in charge of screening applicants' flying qualifications. The air traffic control bureau's work is to guarantee that no civil flights will be affected. The air force decides whether low-altitude airspace is available or not.

The defendants had not received any approval from the three departments, the prosecutors said.

Cao Yin contributed to this story.

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