Photographer in court over Paris Disneyland drone flight

Photographer in court over Paris Disneyland drone flight
Disneyland Paris.

MEAUX, France - A French photo enthusiast appeared in court Tuesday after he was arrested for flying a drone over Disneyland Paris and taking pictures of the amusement park.

The 52-year-old defendant, who has specialised in aerial photography for nearly 25 years and whose pictures have been published in tourist books, is accused of illegally flying over the park and deliberately injuring a security guard.

On April 5 last year, a few months before the controversy over drone flights in Paris, his device was spotted by two Disney security officers.

One of guards was "struck at low speed" by the photographer's vehicle as he tried to stop him from leaving the area, according to hearings conducted at the time by the police.

The defendant Tuesday denied the accusations, saying he went to a park near Disneyland to familiarise himself with flying a model drone.

"I was testing to see if it was worth investing in a real drone for professional projects," he said, assuring that he did not mean to photograph the attractions.

Shots of rides taken by the drone -- a leisure model that weighs less than 25 kilograms (55 pounds) and is not permitted to fly above 150 metres (500 feet) and more than 100 metres from the pilot -- have been shown at the hearing in Meaux.

The photographer is also accused of possessing child pornography after traces of images were found on a hard-drive seized by police after the Disneyland filed a complaint.

The defendant said the images were an "unintentional download" as he was downloading "films about magic, before the Hadopi law", a ruling that came into force in October 2010 to clamp down on film and music piracy.

"These are images that were deleted more than three years ago, at a time when everyone was trading films and downloading en masse," his lawyer Sarah Desmoulin said, stressing that "children in the families around him have not been questioned".

The prosecution has called for a six-month suspended jail sentence describing the drone flight as "illegal" and noting that the enthusiasm of the accused may lead him to "take risks".

The verdict will be handed down on May 29.

Drones were seen over several high-profile areas of Paris earlier this year when the city was on high alert after three gunmen killed 17 in January.

It was unclear whether they are the work of pranksters, tourists or something more malicious.

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