The Legal Argument Against The FAA Shutdown Of Commercial UAVs

October 9th, 2013

PirkervFAAHere is and update on the legal fight going on against the FAA regarding the shutdown of US airspace to commercial UAVs. A couple of weeks ago I reported that “Trappy” of Team Blacksheep (Swiss citizen, Raphael Pirker) was in the process of fighting the FAA in court and that the essence of his legal argument was that the FAA policy regarding commercial UAVs is not enforceable law.

Brendan Schulman, Trappy’s attorney, read my post and sent me a link to his legal brief (40 page PDF) which is the detailed argument of why Brendan and Trappy believe the FAA policy regarding commercial UAVs is not enforceable. The argument in the brief sounds pretty solid to me!

Brendan Schulman presented this argument to the NTSB Administrative Judge on Friday, Oct 4. and that resolution of the case is waiting for a ruling from the judge. Brendan expects “weeks at a minimum” before a ruling from the Judge. The government shutdown will delay the decision even longer.

Today David Kravets of Wired.com reported on this subject and said:

Pirker is fighting the citation before the National Transportation Safety Board, challenging the FAA’s assertion that it has the power to supervise the use of unmanned drones. If Pirker prevails, the FAA’s 2007 ban on the commercial use of unmanned drones — a thriving overseas business — may be nullified.

Pirker’s legal battle throws a spotlight on a commercial drone scene in the United States operating in a grey area. The FAA has issued dozens of cease-and-desist letters to operators of commercial model aircraft, forcing some companies to shut down. Others, however, are performing their aerial filming and crop and real estate surveying businesses underground — or sometimes right in the open.

Note that the video above is of the flight on the University of Virginia that Trappy is being fined $10,000 for. Thanks to Richard Lamb and Greg Utton for pointing out the wired.com article.

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2 Responses to “The Legal Argument Against The FAA Shutdown Of Commercial UAVs”

  • This is still an area that I want to get involved with.
    I use my 45 foot pole attached to my van for my elevated images, which works ok (but not in windy conditions) and needs to go up at least 100 feet to get me a view over multi story homes. there are also places that my van can’t go to (like shots of the home from the water or golf course looking at the home, which realtors are asking for. Realtors do not always want to invest in Helicopter shots, since it is so expensive. but the quad copters seem to be the answer. if they want to make it illegal, then do it for the amateurs, who might be using them to “peek” into others homes. But they should issue special licenses for real estate photographers who have reason to uses them.
    This would also give us real estate photographers another edge over realtors shooting their own property, which many are doing because of cameras becoming easier to use and higher quality fro less money.

  • I recently posted a video to youtube in which I have a little rant about the stupidity surrounding this “policy” which turns a harmless RC model aircraft or multi-rotor into an evil baby-killing “drone”, the moment you use it to make even one red cent of revenue.

    The FAA in the USA (and CAA in the UK and NZ) make no distinction between a tiny “toy plane with camera” and a Predator drone with hellfire missiles — they’re both “UAS” and therefore subject to the same stringent demands.

    This has to change.

    At least in Australia, the FAA equivalent (CASA) has had the commonsense to admit that craft weighing under 2Kg should be treated as “toys” and not regulated, even if they’re used for commercial purposes.

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