Feds Again Ground Commercial Drone Use

The Federal Aviation Administration is appealing a judge’s ruling this week that said a ban on commercial drones lacked proper authority.

National Journal
Dustin Volz
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Dustin Volz
March 7, 2014, 10:57 a.m.

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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