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Travel vloggers detained in Iran for flying a drone without permission

Flying a drone without permission can get you into a lot of trouble these days, though the punishment varies from country to country.

You might get away with a stern word and a slapped wrist, but in a worst-case scenario, you could end up in the slammer.

Case in point: Two Aussie vloggers traveling from their homeland to the U.K. in a Toyota Landcruiser camper had their trip cut short when they were detained in Iran for apparently flying their drone there without a permit.

The arrest of Jolie King, who also holds a British passport, and Mark Firkin happened two months ago, though their ongoing detention has only come to light in the last few days.

Vloggers Mark Firkin and Jolie King. The Way Overland

The couple quit their jobs in 2017 to begin their globe-trotting adventure, which they were documenting on their YouTube channel, The Way Overland. Their videos are peppered with drone footage taken in locations such as Bali, Java, Malaysia, Cambodia, India, and Pakistan.

On their Patreon page, the couple said they had decided to embark on “a life-changing adventure escaping from the daily 9-to-5 corporate grind, selling and packing up our lives to travel the world. We left Perth in July 2017 and will travel overland from Australia to the U.K. documenting our experiences through videos and photos. We hope to inspire others to pursue their dreams and perhaps wander down the road less traveled!”

But the trip of a lifetime came to an abrupt halt in Iran a couple of months ago when the pair were arrested for flying a drone near Tehran without permission, according to Pouria Zeraati, editor at the Persian-language broadcaster Manoto TV.

“The family says this was a misunderstanding and Jolie King and her fiancé Mark Firkin were unaware of the Iranian law which bans drone flights without a license,” Zeraati said in comments reported by the Guardian.

While the Iranian government is yet to publicly confirm the couple’s detention, the Australian government is reportedly already negotiating for the release of its nationals, though so far to no avail. Some reports suggest the Iranians could release the pair as part of a prisoner swap, though any such move is yet to be confirmed. The couple’s plight may be further complicated by increased tensions in recent months between Iran and the West.

Reactions on social media to the couple’s arrest have been mixed. Some have expressed hope for King and Firkin’s swift and safe release, while others have criticized them for flouting local laws in a country well-known for its strict penal code.

In a similar case earlier this year where a foreign national ended up in prison for flying a drone without permission, French tourist Arthur Desclaux was jailed in Myanmar for a month.

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