A Chilean tourist has admitted illegally flying a drone through a firefighting operation but is now trying to avoid a conviction.

Jorge Eduardo Riquelme Cruz also hopes to get his drone back after admitting one of two charges in the Hamilton District Court today.

Police withdrew their Crimes Act charge against Cruz but prosecutor Sergeant Jim Broom said told Judge Kim Saunders they would oppose his application to avoid a conviction.


The 34-year-old's case was transferred from Queenstown to Hamilton in relation to charges laid after he flew his drone near eight firefighting helicopters in Wanaka on January 3.

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The choppers, which were battling a blaze on Mt Alpha, had to be grounded for about 15 minutes.

Riquelme Cruz was initially charged with operating an unmanned drone in a manner that caused unnecessary danger to firefighting pilots and their helicopters, and reckless disregard for the safety of firefighting helicopters likely to cause danger to the pilots and aircraft.

His lawyer, Melissa James said her client was flying out of the country on February 15 so was hoping to get the matter sorted before then.

But Broom said police were only told of the application yesterday and would not have allowed the case to be transferred had they known Riquelme Cruz's intentions.

He tried to get the matter transferred back to Queenstown, where police would prepare their opposition, but that was declined by the judge.

Judge Saunders held off entering a conviction until Riquelme Cruz's applicaiton can be considered.


He was remanded on bail for sentencing on February 9.

Outside court, Cruz wasn't impressed with the media attention instead briefly preferring to hide behind a pole at the court house before braving the cameras, stating "I don't want a picture" and walking off.