FAA appeals NTSB judge's decision on legality of commercial drones

March 8
7:58 AM 2014

The Federal Aviation Administration appealed the decision made by a judge of the National Transportation Safety Board who ruled that commercial drones were legal because the FAA had not yet made a law against it, TechCrunch reported.

As a result of the ruling of NTSB Administrative Law Judge Patrick Geraghty, the FAA would not be able to impose the $10,000 fine it levied on Swiss drone operator Raphael Pirker who allegedly operated a drone recklessly during a commercial shoot for the University of Virginia's medical school. With the ruling, it would seem that drones could be deployed for business purposes, whether it's used as a beer delivery service, to take baseball game pictures or to spray field crops, Politico reported.

In a short statement about the appeal posted on its website, the FAA cited safety concerns that the recent ruling would bring. The agency said, "The FAA is appealing the decision of an NTSB Administrative Law Judge to the full National Transportation Safety Board, which has the effect of staying the decision until the Board rules. The agency is concerned that this decision could impact the safe operation of the national airspace system and the safety of people and property on the ground."

The legality of commercial drone use, however, remains a cloudy issue. The TechCrunch report said that even as the FAA contends that the use of commercial drones as illegal, real estate firms are using small quadcopters to take pictures of houses and video production outfits are also utilizing drones.

The Politico report said the FAA had been having a hard time enforcing the ban as small drones continue to provide a wide number of uses. Drones are now being used to film the spring training of the Washington Nationals, the movie "The Wolf of Wall Street" and even a beer company in Minnesota delivering drinks to thirsty ice fishers, the report said.

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