Judge Patrick Geraghty of the National Transportation Safety Board dismissed a $10,000 fine from the FAA yesterday relating to commercial drone use. Raphael Pirker was fined in 2011 for reckless flying near Charlottesville, Virginia, while he was shooting a promotional video. The judge's ruling directly undermines FAA regulations on commercial UAVs and may be a catalyst for the agency to change its drone policies.
The FAA has been battling with the rise of UAVs and a way to regulate them for several years. In its most recent 2014 update, the FAA confirmed that anyone flying any sort of craft in U.S. airspace must have "some level of FAA approval." However, the FAA’s current framework hasn’t stopped anyone. UAVs are being used to shoot Hollywood films, real estate, agriculture, and just about everything else.
In his decision, the judge stated that “there was no enforceable FAA rule” to support the agency’s fine. The agency is reportedly reviewing the decision and maintains the option to appeal.
The FAA has yet to issue any permits for commercial drone use outside of the Arctic, but it did approve six test sites for drone delivery late last year.
Eric Hansen piloted his DJI Phantom across the country for Outside’s March issue.