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United States The Courts

Drone Pilot Wins Case Against FAA 236

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 SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Friday March 07, 2014 @07:14AM (#46426737)

    Not really. It's stereotyping people based on religion, not race. Very different thing, even if there is a statistical correlation.

  • by Trax3001BBS ( 2368736 ) on Friday March 07, 2014 @07:59AM (#46426913) Homepage Journal

    I used to build and fly 2 meter gliders anywhere I could launch them, only FCC concerns I ever had was the frequency I was controlling them with.
    Getting damn risky now.

    FWIW my fav was the Gently Lady []

  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Friday March 07, 2014 @08:37AM (#46427037)



    Once again, don't try to write words you've only heard, not seen in print.

    And special caveat, don't use "The Little Mermaid" as a guide to how to spell "aerial"....

  • by redshirt ( 95023 ) on Friday March 07, 2014 @08:43AM (#46427051)
    I'd like to read the court's judgement to better understand the reason, but while the FAA may seem overbearing in this case, the FAA is charged with public safety, and they take it very seriously. Anyone that did complain to the police or the FAA had Good Reason []. Incidents with RC aircraft are not uncommon []. I have to agree with the FAA on this one. If someone is appearing to be reckless with their aircraft, regardless of the type, it needs to be addressed.
  • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Friday March 07, 2014 @09:06AM (#46427131)

    this will expedite regulation.

    Good. The current regulations are idiotic. Why should buzzing a crowd be okay, but buzzing a crowd FOR PROFIT be illegal? He didn't get in trouble because he was flying recklessly, but because he was trying to earn a living.

    No, buzzing a crowd is illegal independent of wether it is for profit or not. My guess is since he was doing it for profit is was easier for the FAA to use that to fine him. No that a judge has said they can't do that they need to decide wether to drop the case, appeal, and or charge him with other violations of the CFR. While some rules may seem, or actually be, idiotic, there needs to controls on how airspace is used to ensure everyone's safety. If he did operate the a/c as described in the article he deserves to be slapped. It's the people who act irresponsibly that result in rules being made that negatively impact all of us who don't.

  • by Half-pint HAL ( 718102 ) on Friday March 07, 2014 @09:11AM (#46427155)

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

    That's an easy one. In many fields, it is considered onerous to regulate hobbyists because the cost of registration and testing would be prohibitive. If you're making a living doing something, if you can't make enough money to cover the costs of proper training, regulation and insurance, then it's not a viable business.

    Obligatory car analogy: in most places, it's legal to give your friends a lift in your car on a normal driving license, but you'll need a taxi license to take paying passengers. This, I hope you'll agree, is fair, as it aims to protect the public without encroaching on personal leisure-time liberties.

    Another analogy: public parks. Many cities are now introducing bye-laws/ordnances to stop trainers running profit-making bootcamps etc without a permit. This is because these commercial users are typically much heavier users than members of the public, and therefore use up more of a limited resource, increasing grass damage and ground compaction. Even where the space isn't otherwise needed, there is still the issue of their activity and noise affecting nearby park users. Airways are also public space, and it's fair to the owners (everyone) that those extracting commercial value are controlled and perhaps even pay back in.

    Note, though, that this ruling isn't about the personal use vs commercial use argument -- the judge's decision was that the regulations for UAVs are not directly relevant to model aircraft (differences in size and flight range are not inconsiderable between commercial drones and hobbyist vehicles). As such, expect to see the FAA bring in new regulations for model aircraft, categorising model aircraft by top speed, effective range, fuselage size etc.

    Note also that in most countries that do have specific provisions for model aircraft, Pirker would still have been breach of the law due to the proximity to the helipad. Not only that, but FPV flying (Pirker flies with a camera and head-mounted display) is technically illegal in most jurisdictions, because the designation of model aircraft mandates that the pilot must maintain direct line-of-sight with the aircraft at all times. The need to maintain line-of-sight kept issues of range as effectively redundant in the designation of model aircraft.

  • by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Friday March 07, 2014 @09:21AM (#46427201)
    The FAA doesn't need to be involved, there are plenty of reckless endangerment and negligence laws to cover someone buzzing a crowd and almost hitting people.
  • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Friday March 07, 2014 @09:58AM (#46427391)

    In the free market culture we have, it is very probable that the person filing the complaint (possibly anonymously) was the one who lost the bid for the job.

    Estimates of distance and portrayal of peril can be very subjective.

  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Friday March 07, 2014 @10:26AM (#46427539)

    It went to trial because HE sued the FAA.

    No, he didn't. The FAA fined him for operating recklessly, and he followed the usual administrative procedure to challenge that fine.

    That's not to say that some law suits aren't appropriate in this area - if for no other reason than that the FAA is ignoring legal mandates from Congress to get this area sensibly on the books in short order. The Obama administration, and their people running the agency in question (which is part of the executive branch) is, just as they're doing by randomly and unilaterally modifying and ignoring hard dates and requirements in the ACA, are just blowing off the law on this matter. That, in and of itself, has no bearing on the case in question, but it's causing this to be dragged out for no reason, as hundreds of millions in new economic activity is sitting on the sidelines holding its breath. Thanks, administration. We can tell what your priorities are.

  • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Friday March 07, 2014 @10:54AM (#46427703)

    Never Underestimate the drive of any government agency to expand its sphere of influence and control. Whether its the FAA wanting to control a park full of kids and their radio control toys or the IRS making up laws out of whole cloth, they never miss an opportunity to take more control.

  • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Friday March 07, 2014 @10:56AM (#46427735)

    You should be very skeptical of any claim of someone having to take "evasive measures". We have seen time and time again government workers make stuff up which later proved to be false when the defendant produces video.

  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Friday March 07, 2014 @12:13PM (#46428299)

    If I throw a rock at you, clearly you will have to duck.

    But the FAA's policies make specific reference to model aircraft, and repeatedly get into things like "guided" and "sustained" flight. Meaning, the reason an RC drone isn't a rock is that you're actually sending it, under control, through a sustained flight in the air. The FAA's authority begins an inch off the ground, not 100' or 10,000' - which is why they're still in charge of safety when a 747 is 1' off the runway, or 1,000' off the runway.

    but I'd say they would only have a case there if a helicopter were attempting to operate in the area and the guy kept flying his plane

    A hospital helipad is a 24x7 controlled bit of air space. And more to the point, the pilot in question is all about goggles-on FPV flight. He's seeing where he's going by watching through a small nose camera and a relatively low-res RF video downlink. The guy we're talking about ("Trappy" Pirker) makes a big deal about how he flies FPV out of line of sight. Flying that way, he's got absolutely no situational awareness (say, a medivac helicopter coming in from above or from the side, out of his FPV cam's forward view).

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court