» Subscribe Today!
More of what you want to know.
The Daily News
X

Forgot your password?
Skip Navigation LinksHome >
VOL. 129 | NO. 165 | Monday, August 25, 2014

Lawsuits Challenge FAA Drone, Model Aircraft Rules

JOAN LOWY | Associated Press

Print | Front Page | Email this story | Comments ()

WASHINGTON (AP) – Model aircraft hobbyists, research universities and commercial drone interests filed lawsuits Friday challenging a government directive that they say imposes tough new limits on the use of model aircraft and broadens the agency's ban on commercial drone flights.

The three lawsuits asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the validity of the directive, which the Federal Aviation Administration issued in June. The agency said the directive is an attempt to clarify what is a model aircraft and the limitations on their operation.

The FAA has been working on regulations that would permit commercial drone flights in U.S. skies for more than 10 years, but the agency is still at least months and possibly years away from issuing final rules to permit flights by small drones. Regulations for flights by larger drones are even farther away.

Part of the agency's challenge is to distinguish between planes flown by hobbyists and those used for commercial applications, a distinction that's become harder to draw as the technology for model planes has grown more sophisticated.

A law passed by Congress in 2012 directed the FAA to issue regulations permitting commercial drone flights by the fall of 2015, but prohibited the agency from imposing new regulations on model aircraft.

The FAA directive is a backdoor imposition of new regulations on model aircraft hobbyists and commercial drone operators without going through required federal procedures for creating new regulations, said Brendan Schulman, a New York attorney representing the groups that filed the lawsuits. Federal procedures require an opportunity for public comment on proposed regulations and an analysis of the potential costs of the regulations vs. the benefits.

"People who have been using these technologies for years in different ways are concerned that they are suddenly prohibited from doing so without having their voices heard, and without regard to the detrimental impact on the commercial drone industry," he said. Schulman pointed out that hobbyists have been flying model aircraft nearly 100 years, but he knows of no instance in which a model aircraft has caused the crash of a manned plane or helicopter.

"In situations where there really is no safety issue there appears to be not just some restrictions, but an outright prohibition on activities that have been done for a long time very safely," he said.

FAA officials had no immediate comment on the lawsuits.

The lawsuits were filed by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which represents more than 170,000 model aircraft hobbyists; the Council on Governmental Relations, an association of 188 research universities; and several commercial drone and model aircraft interests. Among them are UAS America, a fund that invests in the commercial drone industry; SkyPan International Inc., an aerial photography company; FPV Manuals LLC, a company that sells video systems for unmanned aircraft operators and an association representing commercial drone operators. All argued that the FAA policy would impede their activities, from hobby use to research and innovation.

Follow Joan Lowy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Sign-Up For Our Free Email Edition
Get the news first with our daily email


 
Blog Get more from The Daily News
Blog News, Training & Events
RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 70 125 13,455
MORTGAGES 119 192 17,541
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 19 51 3,442
BUILDING PERMITS 0 623 31,553
BANKRUPTCIES 62 128 12,823
BUSINESS LICENSES 40 51 4,648
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 80 233 19,690
MARRIAGE LICENSES 25 69 4,129

Weekly Edition

Issues | About

The Memphis News: Business, politics, and the public interest.