What do the Tower of Pisa, the Palazzo Venezia and the Coliseum have in common? You are not allowed to fly your drone there. Nevertheless, an increasing number of tourists take off their drone to take aerial shots of the historic buildings. But this does not always go well: in April alone, several drone crashes were reported at various tourist hotspots in Italy.
Since the coronal shockdowns were lifted, Italian tourist sites are once again buzzing with activity. People are visiting historic buildings in droves again and, of course, they are also photographing them frequently. More and more often, this is done by drone: an increasing number of tourists carry a pocket-sized drone with them to take pictures from the air during their holiday.
Unfortunately, it is forbidden to fly in many popular places in Italy. All of Pisa, for example, is in the controlled airspace of the nearby airport. And over the historic centre of Rome and the Vatican, a complete no-fly zone has been established. So even though European regulations offer more possibilities to fly over urban areas with (light-weight) drones, the Tower of Pisa, the Palazzo Venezia and the Colosseum are not the right places for a drone pilot.
Unfortunately, not everyone is well informed about the drone regulations and local flight restrictions in Italy. This not only leads to numerous illegal drone flights, but also to an increasing number of crashes against historical buildings.
On the evening of 23 April, for example, a 39-year-old Argentine drone flew into the roof of the Palazzo Venezia, a 15th-century palace. Shortly afterwards, the man was arrested by the Carabinieri. According to the police, the man had no idea about the ban on drones above the historic city centre. His drone was confiscated and the man faces criminal charges.
But there have been more incidents recently. On 25 April 2022, a 32-year-old tourist from Romania was stopped by police while he was flying his drone over the Piazza dei Miracoli next to the Tower of Pisa. He wanted to capture the leaning tower from the air. A few days earlier, the drone of two tourists aged 18 and 26 from Mexico crashed into the famous monument. Fortunately, no damage was caused. Their drone was also confiscated.
The risks involved in illegal flights are numerous. A drone that falls from the sky can injure people on the ground, especially in the case of busy attractions. There is also a risk of damage in case of a collision with a monumental building. The nightmare scenario is that a drone's battery catches fire as a result of a crash, with all the consequences that this entails.
According to reports, no fines have yet been issued in Italy for illegal drone flights. The amount can vary from € 516 to as much as € 64,000, depending on the severity of the offence.