The Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday it would appeal a judge’s decision that the government lacks authority to ban commercial drones in the U.S., a move that will again ground the unmanned aerial vehicles until further guidance is issued.
“The FAA is appealing the decision of an NTSB administrative law judge to the full National Transportation Safety Board, which has the effect of staying the decision until the board rules,” the agency said in a statement. “The agency is concerned that this decision could impact the safe operation of the national airspace system and the safety of people and property on the ground.”
NTSB Judge Patrick Geraghty ruled Thursday that documents the FAA cited to justify its drone ban were either meant for internal use by officials or failed to comply with proper rule-making guidelines.
The case, Pirker v. Huerta, involved a Swiss drone operator who was fined $10,00 for recklessly piloting a drone during the filming of a commercial for the University of Virginia. Though the FAA has sent numerous orders to cease drone operations, Raphael Pirker was the first to be hit with a fine for violating the ban.
Before this week’s ruling, the FAA was scheduled to set new drone rules by September 2015, when it had hoped to develop a clear plan to safely integrate the technology into commercial airspace. But last month federal regulators told lawmakers the agency likely wouldn’t be ready to fully integrate by that target, following a pattern of missed deadlines set by Congress.
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The National Defense Authorization Act passed the House this morning by a 375-34 vote. The bill, which heads to the Senate next week for final consideration, would fund the military to the tune of $618.7 billion, "about $3.2 billion more than the president requested for fiscal 2017. ... The White House has issued a veto threat on both the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill, but has not yet said if it will sign the compromise bill released by the conference committee this week."
"Republicans have elected Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) the next chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden defeated Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Joe Barton (R-TX), the former committee chairman, in the race for the gavel" to succeed Michgan's Fred Upton.
"Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are working on legislation that would limit deportations" under President-elect Donald Trump. Leading the effort are Judiciary Committee members Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is also expected to sign on.
Donald Trump has selected retired Marine Gen. James 'Mad Dog' Mattis as his secretary of defense, according to The Washington Post. Mattis retired from active duty just four years ago, so Congress will have "to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law that states secretaries of defense must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years." The official announcement is likely to come next week.