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United States The Courts

Drone Pilot Wins Case Against FAA 236

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-fought-the-law dept.
schwit1 writes "In a David vs. Goliath battle that pitted the Federal Aviation Administration against the operator of a small model airplane, a federal administrative judge has sided with the aircraft's pilot. The judge has dismissed a proposed $10,000 fine against businessman Raphael Pirker, who used a remotely operated 56-inch foam glider to take aerial video for an advertisement for the University of Virginia Medical Center"
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Drone Pilot Wins Case Against FAA

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  • by bobthesungeek76036 (2697689) on Friday March 07, 2014 @06:42AM (#46426623)

    1. Guy flies radio-controlled model plane. 2. ? 3. Guy is in court.

    What happened a step 2?

    From TFA: ...Pirker operated the aircraft within about 50 feet of numerous individuals, about 20 feet of a crowded street, and within approximately 100 feet of an active heliport at UVA, the FAA alleged. One person had to take "evasive measures" to avoid being struck by the aircraft, the agency said...

    My guess is one of the "numerous individuals" whined to the Police/F.A.A.

  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Friday March 07, 2014 @07:18AM (#46426745) Journal
    Not really. A model plane is not a regular aircraft, but it is an "unmanned aircraft system", and he was using it commercially i.e. to shoot an advertisement video. Sounds to me that the FAA is right to assert that this falls under their regulation.

    However the article implies that there is more to the case: "As a general matter, the decision finds that the FAA's 2007 policy statement banning the commercial use of model aircraft is not enforceable". In other words, the judge didn't say that the rule was not broken, but that the rule itself is poorly drafted.
  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Friday March 07, 2014 @07:23AM (#46426769) Journal
    Since when do muslims constitute a race? Silly as that statement is, racism it aint.

    With that said, no terrorist of any persuasion would be so dumb as to stick a (tiny) bomb in an R/C plane. There are much easier and effective ways to blow up people.
  • by Luckyo (1726890) on Friday March 07, 2014 @08:07AM (#46426941)

    From the TFA:
    The judge has dismissed a proposed $10,000 fine against businessman Raphael Pirker, who used a remotely operated 56-inch foam glider to take aerial video for an advertisement for the University of Virginia Medical Center".

    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to put two and two together. Videos shot from air need a platform to shoot them from.

  • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Friday March 07, 2014 @08:15AM (#46426965) Journal

    It's an FAA matter because the FAA regulates the National Airspace System in which this RC aircraft was flying. No one else regulates airspace in the United States, not cities, not states, airspace is a federal matter and many cases have settled this (for example when cities try to enact their own overflight rules, the FAA slaps them down, and has been doing for a long time). It doesn't matter what you're flying, you are still subject to 14CFR if you fly something. It doesn't matter how small or light it is.

    The FAA doesn't regulate cars, RC or otherwise so the RC car example is not relevant.

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Friday March 07, 2014 @09:18AM (#46427187)

    Yes!

    The DJI Phantom is a 'toy' that is causing them A LOT of problems with morons who can buy it, fly it, and get in trouble with it. They are in fact specifically mentioned in some FAA reports as they decide on how to deal with these issues.

  • by ScentCone (795499) on Friday March 07, 2014 @09:25AM (#46427219)

    He didn't get in trouble because he was flying recklessly, but because he was trying to earn a living.

    No. This was specifically because he was being reckless. His videos showing him flying at street level through traffic, buzzing the hospital heliport, etc.

    The reason the FAA became aware of his asshattery is that he uses his jerky stunt flying to promote his business (he sells multirotor hardware, among other things). He's an attention whore, and puts together his videos with a deliberately provocative tone, and it caught up with him. The issue of commercial vs. hobby was incidental, and the administrative judge's ruling didn't speak to that directly anyway.

    Regardless, this isn't even a "final" ruling. For now, he's had his fine dropped. Heavy, onerous regulations are coming for RC/FPV operators, and it will be ugly (licensing, air worthiness certificates, medical exams, etc).

    Why should buzzing a crowd be okay, but buzzing a crowd FOR PROFIT be illegal?

    Buzzing a crowd isn't OK either way. Regardless of the state of the FAA's pending new regs, plenty of local laws against reckless endangerment can be brought to bear, and this sort of ruling is going to pour gas on the fire of a thousand local jurisdictions throwing together a patchwork nightmare of laws against Evil Drones. This ruling is actually a bad thing.

  • by dywolf (2673597) on Friday March 07, 2014 @09:48AM (#46427335)

    Yes. And the FAA has cited kites that fly too high, or are too large, or carry rather large payload. Or some combination thereof.

    No, the FAA generally doesn't care about your little backyard peice of paper on a string. Just dont fly it near and airport and intentionally try to get it sucked into a jet engine.

    However people have made kites a few hundred feet across, weighing a few hundred pounds, and capable flying thousands of feet in the air. The FAA starts to care about that. Particularly if it could interfer with aircraft.

  • by dywolf (2673597) on Friday March 07, 2014 @10:08AM (#46427457)

    Also from the FAA's own page (http://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=76240) there's a few concrete and relevent statements that cannot be ignored:

    -The FAA is responsible for the safety of U.S. airspace from the ground up.

    -Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft—manned or unmanned—in U.S. airspace needs some level of FAA approval.

    -Flying model aircraft solely for hobby or recreational reasons doesn’t require FAA approval, but hobbyists must operate according to the agency's model aircraft guidance, which prohibits operations in populated areas

    -You may not fly a UAS for commercial purposes by claiming that you’re operating according to the Model Aircraft guidelines (below 400 feet, 3 miles from an airport, away from populated areas.)

    -The agency is still developing regulations, policies and standards that will cover a wide variety of UAS users, and expects to publish a proposed rule for small UAS – under about 55 pounds – later this year. That proposed rule will likely include provisions for commercial operations.

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