FAA Admits That They Shouldn’t Be Ordering People To Delete Drone Videos

April 11th, 2015

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Gregory McNeal at Forbes.com reports that:

For more than a year, FAA officials have been engaged in a campaign of subtle threats and intimidation tactics that have persuaded many businesses to not use drone videos. This week, officials in Washington D.C. have finally weighed in on the legality of these tactics and in a published policy document have made clear that the intimidation tactics and take down orders must cease.

Previously, officials in various jurisdictions and across a range of use cases had been telling people that commercial use of drones was prohibited by FAA regulations, therefore, the use of drone videos was similarly prohibited by the FAA. On its face, the guidance amounted to intimidation tactics (undertaken mostly by FAA safety inspectors) and it was a clear violation of the First Amendment. Drone videos are not contraband, and the FAA has no authority to police what is posted to the internet, they only have the authority to enforce aviation regulations.

Read the whole article here.

Update April 12:  Also, another Forbes.com article on small UAVs worth reading is :  FAA Speeds Up Small Drone Exemptions. But Why Not Just Issue a Blanket Exemption?

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8 Responses to “FAA Admits That They Shouldn’t Be Ordering People To Delete Drone Videos”

  • More importantly is this quote from further down the article. Many still believe the FAA cannot enforce commercial ops. I won’t be the one to find out.

    “What this means is that the FAA is likely to only pursue the operators of unmanned aircraft who fly for commercial purposes without authorization. This is good news for individuals like realtors, publishers, journalists, and others who might use commercially derived imagery. It was never lawful for the FAA to go after the end users who were not part of the non-approved operation, it’s nice to see them acknowledging that fact. “

  • What if a realtor operated one for their listing? I guess that would be considered commercial operation and they would run afoul?

  • @Chet, I think that real estate agents might not be in the clear as they are typically the entity hiring a RCMA operator to take photos/video rather than purchasing stock imagery to use for specific listings.

  • I think they can go after you for commercial use, because that is an infraction in and of itself. What they seem to be talking about here is the interesting fact that after footage or photographs are taken illegally, it is very possible the photographer/videographer can legally use them after the illegal act. Isn’t that right? There was a case brought up in the other forum about a trespasser. He was found guilty of trespassing, but the photographs he took were then allowed to be used. I am not sure if that was a commercial use though. The photos/videos are treated independent of the trespassing act somehow.

  • It appears that real estate photographers are still prohibited from taking drone videos because we most certainly would be compensated for doing so which would constitute “commercial use.”
    I am curious as to how some photographers here get away with advertising and selling this service on their websites. It seems like they are just asking for trouble from the FAA. Please let me know if there is some secret to getting away with doing aerial drone videos for your realtor clients or are you just daring the FAA to fine you? I am interested in offering this service but don’t need to be fined several thousand dollars for doing so. I know you can get a use permit from the FAA for a specific, one-time purpose but this would be a tremendous headache if you have to do it for each individual job not to mention that the FAA takes forever to approve it. I read about the problems Amazon was having just to “test” a drone. By the time the FAA approved the test, the drone was already obsolete.

  • @Larry Fields – For the answer to your question I suggest that you look at the Federal drone law section of Peter Sachs http://dronelawjournal.com. Peter points out that:

    “There is no federal statute, and no other federal regulation (other than 91.13, that is) that is codified in our bodies of law, that specifically applies to drones and that is currently applicable to the general public.”

    The FAA is just harassing UAV operators to buy themselves time while they create some enforceable law.

    There are some State laws now that apply to UAV operation.

  • It is amazing to me to see just how many Realtors are continuing to post aerial drone footage throughout the country.
    Much of the Real Estate YouTube videos seem to have aerial footage. Sotheby’s corp. HQ has made it clear that they are not to use drones until the regs are set into concrete in a year or two, however, if you look at their YouTube page MOST are ignoring the request: https://www.youtube.com/user/sothebysrealty/videos
    and Sotheby’s is just one of many!

  • This debate will never end! Like any debate, there are two sides both believing they are right! By inference, if an operator received a 333 exemption, then that operator is ‘legal’ to fly drones for commercial purposes, then it would be assumed that if you do not have a 333 exemption you are operating illegally.

    Stated another way, why issue these exemptionsm as Larry states above issued when “There is no federal statute, and no other federal regulation (other than 91.13, that is) that is codified in our bodies of law, that specifically applies to drones and that is currently applicable to the general public.”? Seems the issuance of these exemptions are pointless doesn’t it?

    So, until the FAA issues Part 107 of the FAR’s, the debate will continue. You pick your side, and stand by your decision. Should you be the very unlucky one the FAA picks to test the waters of the regulations, regardless of the outcome, the expense will be far more than the revenue received for the operation of the drone for that commercial job. Do you want to be THAT ONE? I don’t!

    By the way, I have ordered myself the new Phantom 3 Professional model, expecting delivery mid May. I fully intend to fly it for jobs, once the skies are clear, the visibility unlimited and the FAA has made the decision debate proof.

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