FAA Wants to Issue $10,000 Fine for Drone Video Recording of Tornado Damage

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.

[Via RT.com]

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13 Comments

Keith Walters's picture

In this particular case I don't think a $10,000 fine is warranted. The footage brings a perspective to the devastation caused by a horrific event and can help raise awareness for aid to the area. That being said, I personally wouldn't be flying it directly over search crews or close to a highway, that makes me a little nervous!

The only problem I have here is a drone getting in the way of emergency vehicles such as air rescue.

Having not fully heard the FAA's "logic" behind this, my first response was that fining anyone for using a drone is absurd. A drone was also used to film footage of the Tupelo, MS, tornado damage the day after Brian's drone footage was released. I hardly believe that there would be any major aircraft in the airspace of rural Arkansas where Brian was filming with his drone.

Except for medivacs and the such. In that case, a drone WOULD be an issue.

Yeah I am not a fan of this at all. I understand there needs to be guidelines but issuing fines when proper rules are not set in place and no actual mishaps happened is not the right answer. If this concerns them, then it needs to light a fire under them to get some guidelines out there.

Scott Spellman's picture

This is really poor journalism because there is no evidence here that the FAA is actually considering any sort of action or fine.. The article says "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.” The spokesman is not quoted as saying that they are considering a fine or that any official letter has been sent to anybody. While the topic is relevant and relevant, Fstoppers should have higher standards for journalistic accuracy and not re-blog an article with absolutely no facts or evidence.

I can see the regulation, mainly because I have worked with the public and press in the past, and there are those rogue photographers (both private individuals and professional photographers) who feel their right to get a picture trumps everything else, hiding behind "freedom of the press". That said, there is also a process to dismiss or overlook those regulations according to procedure and circumstance. This regulation is to protect "major air traffic" such as emergency aircraft, traditional news aircraft as well as, since the drone can fly at any elevation, personnel on the ground who could be put in danger by a drone. My guess is that this is why the FAA is "looking into" a fine rather than immediately imposing one.

rick denham's picture

Quote "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.

Well there are many times that I drive and it has no implication on anyone else, but I still need to follow the rules whether I like then or not. Drones, as soon as possible, need to be licensed to everyone and in all forms, before some one does something stupid and they get banned completely.

Jason Ranalli's picture

Exactly. Our government and laws do not cater to the most competent people...they instead cater laws to the most incompetent.

I'm comfortable driving at 100+ mph and aggressively changing lanes, etc. Most people can't even merge in traffic at all...the law surely isn't written with me in mind.

You know its coming right? Imagine 20 tools with their drones all whizzing about, its gonna take 1 accident to ban the whole thing. Just watch.

Jason Ranalli's picture

Definitely....it's only a matter of time. Because there are tons of idiots with these drones that don't know what they're doing.

Local and federal agencies don't like independent, unbiased, un-doctored media blasted all over everywhere. It takes their "spin" away from what really happened.

You stupid liberals and your big effing government. You stupid idiots have ruined our country. We have no freedom in this country thanks to you stupid useful idiots of the left. Go eff your mothers, if you know who they are. Traitors. Losers.