Pirker Drone Case Reaches Settlement

January 30, 2015  - By
Image: GPS World

Aerial photographer Raphael Pirker has settled the civil penalty proceeding brought by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 2013 concerning his flight of a styrofoam Zephyr II model aircraft (or “drone”) at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville in October 2011.

The $1,100 settlement  “does not constitute an admission of any of the allegations in the case or an admission of any regulatory violation,” Pinker’s attorney Brendan Schulman said in a statement.

On December 1, the National Transportation Safety Board ruled in favor of the FAA, when the FAA appealed a decision by an NTSB Administrative Law Judge in Huerta v. Pirker after the judge dismissed the FAA’s order requiring 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.

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.

Schulman wrote: “We are pleased that the case ignited an important international conversation about the civilian use of drones, the appropriate level of governmental regulation concerning this new technology, and even spurred the regulators to open new paths to the approval of certain commercial drone operations.

“The decision to settle the case was not an easy one, but the length of time that would be needed to pursue further proceedings and appeals, and the FAA’s new reliance on a statute that post-dates Raphael’s flight, have diminished the utility of the case to assist the commercial drone industry in its regulatory struggle.”

Read the full settlement agreement below.


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