Washington Report

Advocacy Updates from Washington D.C.

Drone Operator Settles with FAA

A commercial drone pilot, Raphael Pirker, has settled his long-running case with the Federal Aviation Administration.  Pursuant to the settlement, Mr. Pirker did not admit any wrongdoing, but agreed to pay the FAA a civil penalty in the amount of $1,100.  Mr. Pirker was originally fined $10,000 by the FAA for the careless or reckless operation of an unmanned aircraft.  Mr. Pirker appealed the fine, arguing that the unmanned aerial vehicle was not an “aircraft” under FAA regulations and therefore not subject to the FAA’s prohibition on the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles. While the administrative law judge that heard Mr. Pirker’s appeal agreed with Mr. Priker’s argument and reversed the fine, the FAA appealed the administrative law judge’s decision.  An NTSB review panel recently reversed the administrative law judge’s decision, finding that the unmanned aerial vehicle was an “aircraft” under the FAA regulations and subject to the FAA’s regulation.

This settlement does not change the FAA’s current prohibition on the commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems.  It is expected that the Federal Aviation Administration will issue proposed regulation on the issue any day. 

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