DJI drone enthusiast arrested in Israel for filming planes landing at Tel Aviv airport

Mary-Ann Russon
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A 20-year-old man has been arrested in Israel after flying a DJI drone near an airport – close to where aeroplanes were attempting to land on the runway – and then bragging about the feat on social media.

On Friday 14 July, Niv Stobenzki went to an outdoor bar about half a mile away from the Sde Dov Airport in Tel Aviv and launched his Mavic Pro drone into the air. He used the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to capture footage of commercial jet liners on the approach to the airport, just 90ft (27m) away.

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Sde Dov Airport is located on the coast and is close to the Tel Aviv Port. It primarily serves domestic flights. Stobenzki used his drone to film himself sitting at the bar at the port and identified himself clearly in the edited video with a black circle and the word "me".

Aeroplanes from Israir Airlines and Arkia Israeli Airlines can be also clearly identified in the video as they fly past the drone.

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"If you thought that my video filming the cargo ship was crazy, you must see this one – filming aeroplanes half a mile from the airport," he wrote in a public post on Facebook, while adding in the YouTube description that it was a "crazy shot", but there was "little danger".

The drone pilot seemed quite proud of his accomplishments and asked viewers to subscribe to his channel on YouTube and to tell him what they thought of his video. The video has been shared 23 times on Facebook and viewed over 72,000 times on YouTube.

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Widespread criticism from drone community

However, his video has been met with widespread criticism from drone enthusiasts in many countries, and over the weekend Stobenzki was arrested.

According to Israel National News, Stobenzki was interrogated and has now been placed under house arrest for five days. His UAV, computer and smartphone have been confiscated by the police.

The Israel Ministry of Transport and Road Safety said in a statement on 15 July: "This is a disturbing and serious incident, and we must raise awareness before a disaster occurs."

"This was one of the single most illegal, and most dangerous, drone acts of stupidity and selfishness," said Mike Swindell, one of the hundreds of drone enthusiasts who posted on Stobenzki's Facebook status. "There is no excuse or rationalisation about this. There can be no mistake when you are flying this close to aircraft that it is critically dangerous and putting many hundreds of people's lives at risk."

There are close to 1,200 comments on the YouTube video page. Many of the enthusiasts who posted said that they were reporting Stobenzki to the Israeli authorities.

"This is the reason we get a bad reputation. You state 'crazy shot and little dangers' , [but] if you have just the slightest mishap, you will create a disaster. This is irresponsible," wrote YouTube user S Pate.

Drone must have been hacked

DJI says that the Go app prevents any of its products from taking off in restricted no-fly zones, which includes airports, military bases and nuclear power plants. In particular, due to the flight path of aeroplanes taking off and landing, users are also prohibited from taking off in the immediate areas surrounding airports.

The world's largest drone manufacturer says that unless users hack into its firmware to circumvent the ban, they should not be able to take off next to an airport.

"We stand ready to assist national aviation authorities as they investigate a recent wave of photos and videos showing clear and intentional lawbreaking in ways that pose real danger to manned air traffic. DJI cooperates with lawful requests from governmental authorities investigating crimes that may involve our technology," DJI told IBTimes UK.

"Recently there have been media reports of unauthorised flight control parameter modifications that enable DJI drones to circumvent built-in safety features, including geofencing restrictions. DJI is constantly working on improving its firmware to counter unauthorised tampering.

"A recent firmware update issued for all DJI drones fixes reported issues and ensures DJI's products continue to provide information and features supporting safe flight. DJI will continue to investigate additional reports of unauthorised modifications and issue software updates to address them without further announcement."

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