Gentlemen, start your drones: Judge’s ruling opens door for commercial use

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

View results

A judge’s decision could, at least temporarily, open U.S. skies to commercial drone use.

National Transportation Safety Board Administrative Law Judge Patrick Geraghty ruled Thursday that the federal government erred when fining drone operator Raphael Pirker $10,000 for using the craft to film a commercial for the University of Virginia. Judge Geraghty said there is no enforceable regulation under current Federal Aviation Administration rules prohibiting such use, adding even more confusion to the already murky picture of what unmanned aircraft can and can’t do in American skies.


SEE ALSO: Navy’s first laser weapon ready for prime time; drone killer to deploy this summer


The ruling applies to U.S. airspace below 400 feet and could open the door for commercial drone use by companies such as Amazon, which has said it’s eyeing the craft as a cost-effective way to deliver packages.

The FAA, charged by Congress to safely integrate drones into U.S. airspace by September 2015, vowed to appeal the ruling.

“The FAA is appealing the decision … to the full National Transportation Safety Board, which has the effect of staying the decision until the Board rules,” the agency said in a statement. “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.”

Sanford Miles pilots a drone to shoot video of a large fire at an apartment building in Detroit, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. There were no immediate reports of any deaths caused by the fire at the Jason Manor Apartments, which broke out at about 6 a.m. Four people were taken to hospitals for treatment, Detroit Fire Commissioner Jonathan Jackson said. (AP Photo/Detroit News, David Coates)  DETROIT FREE PRESS OUT; HUFFINGTON POST OUT; MAGS OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Enlarge Photo

Sanford Miles pilots a drone to shoot video of a large fire ... more >

The drone industry’s leading trade group, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said the decision makes clear the need for the federal government to craft clear, well-defined rules for drones as soon as possible.

“Our paramount concern is safety. We must ensure the commercial use of [drones] takes place in a safe and responsible manner, whenever commercial use occurs. The decision also underscores the immediate need for a regulatory framework for small” drones, said the group’s president and CEO, Michael Toscano.

The FAA says it will issue new rules on small drones — those weighing under 55 pounds — later this year, part of the larger effort to integrate the craft into the skies by September of next year.


SEE ALSO: Facebook looks to extend reach by acquiring drone company


© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks