Will Amazon Get Those Drones After All? Judge Dismisses FAA Fine For Commercial Drone User

Chin up, Amazon! Turn that frown upside down, local brewery sending beer through the air! Delivery by commercial drone might still be possible, despite the Federal Aviation Administration going around putting the kibosh on the unmanned aerial vehicles. A federal judge has dismissed the FAA’s only fine against a commercial drone user.

The National Transportation Safety Board administration law judge found that a man shouldn’t have been fined $10,000 by the FAA, as his drone was no different than a model aircraft, reports the Associated Press.

He said in dismissing the fine that the FAA doesn’t have any regulations that govern model aircraft flights or any that classify model aircraft as an unmanned aircraft.

It’s not like we’ll be seeing swarms of Amazon drones filling the skies with their deliveries just yet, as the FAA said it’s reviewing the decision, which it could appeal to the safety board.

The FAA issued the fine against an aerial photographer who flew a small drone near the University of Virginia (the alma mater of 1/6 of Consumerist [not me]) while he was making a commercial video in October 2011. The man then appealed that fine.

The FAA says it has the power to regulate access to the national airspace, which means it should be able to ban drone flights because they go through that airspace.

“There are no shades of gray in FAA regulations,” the agency says on its website. “Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft —manned or unmanned —in U.S. airspace needs some level of FAA approval.”

It’s not like the FAA doesn’t want drone deliveries, it’s just taking its own sweet time to work on regulations that would allow them without endangering manned aircraft or the general public. Congress passed a law in 2012 that told the FAA to get things ready for drones of all sizes by September 2015, but apparently it’s a little bit behind.

Regulations that would allow drones that weigh less than 55 pounds have been delayed and won’t be proposed until November, probably, starting a process that will take months or years to become final.

While companies like Amazon and UPS are churning with plans for small drones, the FAA had maintained that a model aircraft is different from a small drone because of the intent with which it’s used — model aircrafts are just for a fun day out in the park with your kids, while a small drone is a flying thing used for commercial purposes.

It’ll be interesting to see now how many “model aircrafts” begin turning toward commercial purposes in light of the judge’s ruling.

You can follow MBQ on Twitter if you like Fridays because she does, too: @marybethquirk

Judge dismisses FAA fine against small drone user [Associated Press]

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  1. CommonC3nts says:

    Looks like the judge goofed up.
    The FAA does have regulations that govern anything that flies in US airspace including drones.
    You must get FAA approval for any aircraft/anything that flies for commercial purposes including drones.
    The only issue right now is there is no hard criteria to get the airworthiness certificate. The FAA can change the criteria for every application which is not fair. Now by 2015 they must have set criteria so people know if they will be able to get a permit or not before even applying.

    The FAA does have an exemption on non-commercial drones/model aircraft for hobbyists.
    I have a feeling this judge is going to be reprimanding for blatantly ignoring existing laws.