Judgement Makes Commercial Drones Completely Legal Again

Judgement Makes Commercial Drones Completely Legal Again

Known as Trappy on message boards and Facebooks groups, and the "aeriel anarchist" among drone hobbyist, Raphael Pirker the 29-year-old swede will be making headlines today after a federal judge has dismissed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) case against Pirker. In 2011 the FAA smacked Pirker with a $10,000 fine after he flew his Styrofoam drone around the University of Virginia while filming an ad for the university's medical school. This became a test case for the FAA's authority to prohibit people from flying a drone for commercial purposes.

According to an article posted by Politico "The FAA has been saying since 2007 that commercial drone use is not allowed, but the agency never went through the official rule-making channels to make it illegal." As a result of this loophole the case was not weighted on whether Pirker was operating the drone for commercial purposes, but whether or not he was flying in a "reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another."

America's first drone defense lawyer, Brandon Schulman, defended Pirker stating that the FAA has never regulated model aircrafts and that it's entire basis for making them "illegal", was not legally binding. The FAA has never undertaken the required public notice necessary to make an official regulation.

This case being dismissed means, at least for now, that drone aircrafts can be operated commercially and you can charge whatever the heck you want. That means it's an open playing field for commercial drones, if you want to get beer delivered while you're ice fishing go right ahead.

Motherboard's article mentions that the FAA could try and establish an emergency rule, but it's unclear how long that will take and whether or not they'll do it.

[VIA Motherboard] [Via Politico]

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18 Comments

Leigh Miller's picture

Yup great...now any idiot with enough money to buy one of these things will be flying them like crazy...chopping off heads as they go. Can't wait to hear the lawsuits raining down.

Patrick Hall's picture

The irony is, before this ruling, hobbyists were already legally allowed to fly them. If anything the professional commercial guys who have liability insurance and proper training flying these are WAY more safe than the random kid and parent with one flying for fun.

But what about the guy who sees it as a great opportunity to add some service to his city? There are plenty of people out there that will see this and buy an octocopter and Movi (or something equivalent) and without having any real experience assume they can safely fly one of these things.

In Canada flights are regulated by Transport Canada and permits are necessary until you can get blanket coverage - that being said, getting a permit means you have to file a lot of paperwork that really helps users get an idea of where they are allowed and why.

I imagine a lot of dangerous situation will develop in the US as a result of a lack of guidelines and very inexperienced pilots and flight safety protocols. :(.

Alberto Tanikawa's picture

I'm in total agreement. I think drone use should be legal, but there should be some kind of certification procedure to make sure the drones and users are safe. God forbid some terrorist start to put bombs in drones and flying them, unimpeded, to their victims. I can see now a new Federal Drone Agency to monitor drone use at a local level, then scramble drone interceptors (bigger, badder drones) to catch uncertified drones. :p

Patrick Hall's picture

Obviously these will come down in price, but at the moment a DJI Phantom is about $1000 or even $2000 if you add the gimbal, accessories, and gopro. So I would believe there would be some caution exercised by the operator simply because the gear is relatively expensive.

I honestly don't think these small drones are anywhere near the danger level that other regulated operations include like motorcycles or cars. People fly kites, HUGE kites like kiteboarders, ride bicycles, and other activities that are not required to have licenses or insurance every day. The world can be a dangerous place if you aren't aware of your surroundings. I'm not saying there shouldn't be regulation but at the moment they don't seem that big of a deal when compared to other dangers we come in contact with on a daily basis.

A DJI Phantom small enough to carry a GoPro is around a grand with gimbal and GoPro included. Maybe less. It's the gear required to carry DSLRs that can get crazy pricy. That said, drones aren't the problem many people make them out to be. If any yahoo can end up with a gun or a car (whether legally or illegally), then drones are the least of our worries.

Hey Leigh, US laws allow people to arm themselves and drive cars. How many more people die from getting shot or run down?

Leigh Miller's picture

Hmmm heard of George Zimmerman?

We're talking about the guy who shot the unarmed black kid he was bothering and harassing because he didn't like the way he looked? And your argument is...?

Leigh Miller's picture

Go fly a drone...idiot

Take the "rio" off your name and you will be spot on..

Mike Folden's picture

Very good news.

Alberto Tanikawa's picture

Wasn't there a town somewhere in the US that the sheriff or mayor said they wanted to legally shoot down any drones that came into their airspace?

The FAA has been dragging its feet in getting binding rules enacted for almost seven years. It's gotten away with regulating drones without any real power to regulate. This court ruling should finally light a fire under the FAA to propose the rules it plans to enforce and get public comment.

While I am not against drones for private use, I so think they need to be regulated. Drone operators of large rigs should pass a safety class, get certified, purchase bond and insurance and apply for a permit every time they want to fly in a populated area. This is coming from a guy who is ordering a DJI S1000 this afternoon.. :)

Jason Ranalli's picture

It's a fad that is only just beginning unfortunately. I can only hope people are sensible enough to keep these out of populated areas.

I guess I got my first drone when I was 10...in 1960. I just called it a "radio controlled model airplane."

I am the only one confused with drones and R/C quadrocopters?

My understanding is drones FLY ON THEIR OWN and those gadgets/video tools seem to be remote controled...

DRONES are very hard to make and fly reliably. RC plane are MUCH easier..