The Federal Aviation Administration is pressing its effort to restrict use of unmanned aerial vehicles after it lost a legal ruling regarding regulatory authority over smaller drones. But amid a rising tide of drone usage, including by contractors and engineers, the agency's fight may prove futile.
In March, an administrative judge with the National Transportation Safety Board dismissed the FAA's sole attempt to levy a fine of $10,000 against photographer Raphael Pirker for "careless and reckless" operation of a drone at the University of Virginia. In fining Pirker, FAA noted that he operated the UAV through an operating tunnel and below a construction crane and that it almost struck a person. NTSB judge Patrick Gerarghty ruled the FAA lacked authority, concluding that UAVs are model aircraft, which FAA excludes from regulation. Wrote Gerarghty, "The reasonable inference is not that FAA has overlooked the requirements, but, rather, that FAA has distinguished model aircraft as a class excluded from the regulatory and statutory definitions."