Drone Prohibition: NTSB Rules Favorably on FAA Appeal

December 1, 2014  - By
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Image: GPS World

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has ruled that drones are aircraft for the purpose of the Federal Aviation Administration’s prohibition of their careless or reckless use.

The NTSB affirmed the agency’s position that unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) meet the legal definition of “aircraft,” and that the agency may take enforcement action against anyone who operates a UAS or model aircraft in a careless or reckless manner.

The FAA appealed a decision by an NTSB Administrative Law Judge in Huerta v. Pirker, after the judge dismissed the FAA’s order requiring Raphael Pirker to pay a civil penalty of $10,000 for operating an unmanned aircraft in a careless or reckless manner at the University of Virginia in October 2011.

The FAA said in a statement, “The FAA believes Mr. Pirker operated a UAS in a careless or reckless manner, and that the proposed civil penalty should stand. The agency looks forward to a factual determination by the Administrative Law Judge on the ‘careless or reckless’ nature of the operation in question.”

Commercial drones are currently banned in the U.S., except for certain exemptions like one announced in September for some TV and movie production companies, as reported by PC World. Amazon.com and Google have said they plan to use drones to deliver goods. The FAA is required by U.S. Congress to frame a “safe integration” plan for the commercial use of UAS by Sept. 30, 2015.

The NTSB was ruling in an appeal against an FAA order that imposed a fine of $10,000 on aerial photographer Raphael Pirker in October 2011 for flying recklessly a powered glider aircraft near University of Virginia at Charlottesville, Virginia. Pinker was said to have been hired to supply aerial photographs and video of the university campus and medical center. He had argued that his aircraft, which was described as an UAS, was in fact a model aircraft.

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