Mini copter pilot charged after landing on US Capitol lawn

WASHINGTON - A protester who landed his mini helicopter on the US Capitol lawn appeared in court Thursday to face charges of flying an illegal aircraft and violating national defence airspace.

US District Court Judge Deborah Robinson sentenced the gyrocopter pilot, Douglas Hughes, to house arrest and ordered him to wear a GPS ankle bracelet until his next Washington court appearance on May 8.

Hughes, who is reported to work as a mailman in Tampa Bay, Florida, landed his mini copter on the grounds of the US Capitol - the monumental seat of Congress in the heart of Washington - on Wednesday.

The incident sparked a security scare and forced Capitol Police to place the building under lockdown for a period in the midst of Washington's busiest tourism season.

Hughes, 61, appeared in court wearing a United States Postal Service coat and said only "I do" when asked if he swore to tell the truth. He was not asked to enter a plea.

Robinson ordered Hughes not to fly aircraft of any kind and to report weekly to federal pre-trial services in Tampa. She also told him to stay away from the White House and the US Capitol when he returns to Washington for his next court appearance or to see his lawyer.

He repeated "I do" when asked if he understood the conditions of his release.

Hughes has said he was exercising his right to civil disobedience and was sending a message to lawmakers about campaign finance reform, according to an earlier interview with the Tampa Bay Times.