FAA’s Cease-And-Desist Orders To Drone Pilots Are Bogus, Appeals Court Rules

July 18th, 2014

BogusJason Koebler over at Motherboard.vice.com reported that today three judges with the Washington DC Court of Appeals ruled that, “…Flying drones for search-and-rescue purposes is legal, and all the cease-and-desist orders the government has sent drone pilots are bogus, an appeals court judge ruled today… In other words, because the FAA’s letters to the group (and to all the companies flying drones) don’t actually say what the punishment for disobeying the agency is, they are null-and-void. And because there’s no actual regulation that the FAA can lean on to spell out a punishment.” Read Jason’s complete article here.

Note that this decision is the result of the Texas Equusearch suit filed in February and don’t confuse it with the Pirker v FAA appeal that is still pending. The obvious similarities between these two cases is that all the judges that have made rulings in these two cases apparently don’t believe there is any actual regulations for small RCMA (Remote Control Model Aircraft).

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6 Responses to “FAA’s Cease-And-Desist Orders To Drone Pilots Are Bogus, Appeals Court Rules”

  • Will the FAA appeal this decision like the did with Pirker, thus in effect, putting the decision in limbo land?

  • I’m sure the FAA will do something. They probably don’t like getting slapped on the wrist like this and their huge egos will surely not tolerate backing down.

  • Lately, I’ve been considering making an investment in a drone because it seems like I’m being asked more and more by my clients for those types of property photos. Should I hold off until the FAA comes down with some concrete rules?

  • @James – Great question! In 2012 Congress directed the FAA to do that (integrate UAVs into US airspace) by Sept 2015 but from what I read, no one, even Congress believes that will happen by 2015. One has to wonder why this is so difficult for the FAA when most of the developed world has already done this to various extents.

  • @ James – You many want to research what your state and local governments are cooking up when it comes to rules about RCMA’s. The FAA may not get around to drafting regulations for small craft for some time where local authorities are working faster in the face of stories about RCMA’s gone wrong. Your other consideration will be insurance. I found the ream of fine print for my liability insurance coverage and it does specifically deny coverage for “aircraft” without an aircraft rider. I am very sure that the office block full of attorneys that the insurance company employes will quickly state that an RCMA is defined as an aircraft with regards to their coverage and will, therefore, deny any claims involving accidents while using one to photograph a property.

    I’ve also had a couple of agents ask about photos taken with a RCMA, but all of them weren’t willing to hire me to shoot stills at $100. I doubt they would pay more than $20 for RCMA footage. I also get asked if I shoot property videos, but when I estimate a price for them, the interest dies off.

    @Larry – Small RCMA craft are likely at the bottom of the priority list. Large contractors such as Boeing and General Dynamics are pushing to get their craft into the market place and they will be flying in the same airspace as manned craft. Since they own their own politicians, their projects are more of a priority. It is a very large project for the FAA at a time when budgets are getting slashed and they are also being pushed to implement the Nextgen air traffic control system plus a myriad of other mandates. With no powerful advocacy group, users of RCMA’s for small commercial operations just don’t have an effective voice. The closest thing to what a RE photographer would be doing is Amazon’s publicity stunt program of using multi-rotor craft to deliver products. Frankly, I think that even if Amazon does make a few deliveries with UAVs, they are going to get shot out of the sky so frequently that it will quickly become a boondoggle. Criminals will figure out very quickly that an expensive delivery method is only going to get used to deliver expensive stuff and it will be worth the effort to come up with ways to force them down.

  • Thank you Ken and Larry for your replies. Very helpful!!! 🙂

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