November 18th, 2014
Today an appeals court ruled that the FAA can make any drone flight illegal. For drone pilots, this means a taking a flight could potentially set them back $10,000 if the FAA chooses to use its powers. Here is the text of the ruling. I can’t make sense out of it, maybe you can.
Here is what others are saying about this ruling:
- Forbes.com- Gregory McNeal: The Federal Government Thinks You Backyard is National Airspace and toys are subject to FAA regulations.
- Gizmoto.com: Dumbass Court Ruling Says All Drones Are Aircraft.
- Motherboard.com: FAA Can Make All Drone Flights Illegal, Federal Court Rules.
- Forbes.com – John Gogila: NTSB Overturns Pirker Case: Finds For FAA That Drones Are Aircraft Subject To Its Rules.
- Fastcompany.com: Ruling Brings Drones Under FAA Regulation, Could Lead to Sweeping Bans
- Fastcompany.com: NYPD is Concerned The Next Terrorist Attack Could Be Carried Out By Consumer Drones.
- Wall Street Journal: NTSB Rules Drones Are Aircraft, Subject to FAA Rules.
- Bloomberg.com: FAA’s Power to Police Civilian Drones Bolstered by Decision.
- Dronelaw.com: The NTSB Remands the Pirker Case
On the one hand, this seems like a “Dumbass” ruling that defies common logic. On the other hand, this decision may keep the UAV situation from being more chaotic and out of control than it already is. The bottom line is that Real Estate UAV videography and photography is probably over for another year or so until the FAA creates some rules. No one expects the FAA to meet their September 2015 deadline.
Update late 11/18: Pirker’s attorney, Brendan Schulman’s comment on the decision (from Dronelaw.com article above) was:
While we disagree with the decision, today’s NTSB ruling in the Pirker case is narrowly limited to whether unmanned aircraft systems are subject to an aviation safety regulation concerning reckless operation, an issue that the NTSB has said requires further factual investigation before a penalty is imposed. The more significant question of whether the safe operation of drones for business purposes is prohibited by any law was not addressed in the decision, and is currently pending before the D.C. Circuit in other cases being handled by Kramer Levin. We are reviewing the options for our next steps in the Pirker case.
So perhaps this doesn’t settle the issue of whether commercial drone operation is legal.