Videos like this help bring awareness of disaster situations which in turn brings aid and funding for recovery efforts. It can be argued that videos like this are pivotally important in the modern age for any area of the United States to get the help they need. But the FAA, still miffed about drones in general, is considering fining the videographer $10,000 for taking the footage. The video has already garnered more than 2 million views and served to illustrate the devastation of a town in Arkansas after a tornado ripped through earlier this week.
The drone operator, Brian Eminger, sought to simply bring awareness of a situation to the public eye, but according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and reported by RT.com, he could now face a $10,000 fine because of strict FAA guidelines.
The agency’s regulations prohibit UAVs from being used for commercial purposes, including reporting, although photographers and press watchdogs alike have complained that the rule (designed to keep drones out of the flight path of major aircraft) are a violation of the freedom of press guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Proponents have also complained that frivolous restrictions on drone activity are a needless limit that eliminates a potentially helpful tool for first responders.
When questioned Monday on whether the FAA had seen Eminger’s video, FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford told the Gazette that “We are looking into it.”
There are absolutely cases where a drone would interfere with commercial and federal aircraft, but there are a great many more where it would have no impact at all and would be extremely useful. The FAA seems to want to blanket the country in litigation that prevents any commercial/independent drone flight rather than figure out what is best for everyone in different circumstances. Granted, blanket treatment for everyone is certainly easier.
Last March, the FAA's case against a drone pilot was dismissed, effectively making commercial drone flight legal again. That hasn't seemed to slow down their desire to issue fines, however.