Got a drone as a gift? It could land you in jail

Got a drone as a gift? It could land you in jail. (WPEC)

Did you find a drone under your Christmas tree this year? Launch it in certain areas and you could end up paying a fine or even land in jail.

Earnest Lovely tried to launch his drone for the first time, but his Christmas gift isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“I kept trying to get up and unknowingly my drone kept telling me I’m in a no fly zone," he said.

It’s a good thing that his drone stayed on the ground. Otherwise, Lovely would have violated temporary flight restrictions in place because of President Trump’s visit, a 30-mile bubble of flight restrictions that also includes drones.

“I’m sure a lot of people don’t know,” he said.

The FAA says as of today, there have been no reported drone flights in the restricted area since it went into effect last Friday.

But those who break the law could pay a big price, including jail time, according to the FAA. Drone pilots could be subject to the same civil penalties as pilots of manned aircraft and a violation could result in criminal charges.

However, the FAA says those penalties depend on the violation.

Drone expert Shawn Holmgren of Palm Beach Drone says even flying the drone a few feet off the ground can result in serious penalties.

“If you’re piloting an aircraft and that includes a UAS, then you have to abide by more regulations that even driving a car,” he said.

The flight restrictions are in place until Jan. 1.

The FAA has received an average of 250 reports of drones near airports every month.

A check of Federal records shows nearly two-dozen reported close encounters near Palm Beach International Airport during the last few years including a Delta airlines flight on final approach to the airport.

The pilot reported an unmanned aircraft at 10,000 feet. Another pilot spotted an unmanned aircraft just 50 feet from the airplane at 7,000 feet.

The FAA prohibits drones from flying above 400 feet.

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