Commercial Drones Were Never Actually Illegal, Rules Judge

Cognimancer

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Jun 13, 2012
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Commercial Drones Were Never Actually Illegal, Rules Judge



Despite what the FAA may have told you, U.S. citizens are completely free to fly drones all day long.

There's never been a shortage of good uses for drones. Very smart people are working very hard so that we, the consumers, could someday order flying robots to bring us tacos [http://tacocopter.com/]. The problem is that the Federal Aviation Administration doesn't like the idea of commercial drones, and has threatened anyone who breaks that law with a $10,000 fine. However, it seems somebody didn't do their homework - the FAA recently took its first drone case to court, where the judge realized that there isn't actually a law forbidding commercial drone usage.

Raphael Pirker recently used a drone to do some professional filming at the University of Virginia. The FAA issued a fine, claiming that there was "no gray area" in the law regarding this kind of activity. Pirker fought the case, and he and his lawyer discovered that the root of the FAA's claim was a policy notice from six years ago, with no actual regulation behind it. The judge, finding no law against Pirker's actions, dismissed the fine.

All you drone operators out there, take note - this is your chance. The FAA can appeal the decision and bring the case to the D.C. Court of Appeals, and will probably start putting together some regulations it can actually enforce. But until then, the use of commercial drones is 100% legal. Unregulated sky robots: 1, FAA: 0.

Source: Motherboard [http://motherboard.vice.com/read/commercial-drones-are-completely-legal-a-federal-judge-ruled]

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lacktheknack

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Jan 19, 2009
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As much as I want to grin because I dislike people being taken to court over innocent actions, I can't say that "Unregulated Sky Robots" is ever something I want to win points.
 

Li Mu

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While I understand that having drones fly around everywhere could potentially endanger planes, surely this is only going to be a real issue around airports.
 

Infernal Lawyer

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Li Mu said:
While I understand that having drones fly around everywhere could potentially endanger planes, surely this is only going to be a real issue around airports.
Exactly. Not that I know for sure, but I'm pretty sure there's a list of restrictions that airports already have for the surrounding area?

OT: So, wait, what happened? I know this is ironic considering my username, but I'm not sure if it was just a law that was never actually passed or what?
 

Baresark

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Not a real surprise. As soon as they get a judge to decide in their favor, you have a defacto law creation. It's a shortcut used by prosecutors all the time skirt the need to actually have a bill created, voted on, and passed into a law.
 

Bara_no_Hime

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As someone who likes the idea of commercial drones being used for fast delivery... bravo!

I was wondering how the FAA got a law on drones passed so quickly. Turns out the answer was - they didn't! They just lied about it.

**rubs hands**

Come on Amazon Drone Shipping!

Also...

inb4 "Argal Blargal Skynet etc"
 

Abomination

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What I find the most abhorrent about this whole fiasco is how what is essentially a new application for technological advancement is being quashed/fought by big business.

Robotics is the future and the technology used to program such machines to navigate 3D space automatically is going to have far reaching consequences in other fields such as search and rescue, hazardous mining, and space exploration.

We NEED this technology to "take off", not because of the immediate benefits but because of the tangential benefits that will spawn from it.
 

Aethren

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I wonder what's to stop someone with a rifle and good aim to shoot down every delivery drone he sees. It's like theft, delivered right to your backyard.
 

blackrave

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Wait, it was even an issue?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't drones just basically long range RC toys?
And as far as I know RC toys weren't outlawed.
 

List

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blackrave said:
Wait, it was even an issue?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't drones just basically long range RC toys?
And as far as I know RC toys weren't outlawed.
The difference in a drone and rc is that a person is directly controlling the machine instead of a program(of course, you can turn it over to manual).
Other than that...

So they don't trust that the drones are programed properly?
 

FalloutJack

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lacktheknack said:
As much as I want to grin because I dislike people being taken to court over innocent actions, I can't say that "Unregulated Sky Robots" is ever something I want to win points.
You're thinking too 'robot apocalypse' here, man. Try and visualize a more...Jetsons kind of approach.
 

Raziel

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I'm not interested in having a bunch of flying camera allowed to go where ever they please. I'm all in favor of the things being outlawed.
 

Da Orky Man

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Aethren said:
I wonder what's to stop someone with a rifle and good aim to shoot down every delivery drone he sees. It's like theft, delivered right to your backyard.
What's to stop someone with a knife from slashing the tires of every postal truck they see?

OP: Though I suspect the FAA will want to go further, as much as I like drones, they ought to have some level of regulation, even if it's just to stop them from flying in certain areas, like airports.
 

Lil_Rimmy

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Raziel said:
I'm not interested in having a bunch of flying camera allowed to go where ever they please. I'm all in favor of the things being outlawed.
Oh hey, I just walked down the street. I guess I should be outlawed too.

You realise that these things will just be flying above your houses, not right next to your windows? Not to mention, what's the worst that happens when a drone (which is usually remote flown, not piloted) that for some reason is recording everything it sees flies over you?

It sees a person? It sees a person in a window which other people could already see? It sees you having sex? What, will it stop and film a porno?

Whilst I agree having people stick cameras in your own home and record you 24/7 is a breach of privacy, having drones fly over in PUBLIC where people can already see you and helicopters already do the same thing - what's the problem?
 

Thaluikhain

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lacktheknack said:
As much as I want to grin because I dislike people being taken to court over innocent actions, I can't say that "Unregulated Sky Robots" is ever something I want to win points.
Yeah...sure, drones are going to happen, but they are something that needs careful monitoring, which seems unlikely.
 

Strazdas

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May 28, 2011
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The though of items being delivered right into my balcony is amazing thing. Even if my country is so behind in such things that we will get it 5-10 years after you do, that will still be something i would gladly enjoy. Very nuch for it all the way.
 

Cognimancer

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Jun 13, 2012
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Abomination said:
What I find the most abhorrent about this whole fiasco is how what is essentially a new application for technological advancement is being quashed/fought by big business.

Robotics is the future and the technology used to program such machines to navigate 3D space automatically is going to have far reaching consequences in other fields such as search and rescue, hazardous mining, and space exploration.

We NEED this technology to "take off", not because of the immediate benefits but because of the tangential benefits that will spawn from it.
Amazon (who started this whole thing) would be considered big business. The Federal Aviation Administration, not so much :)
It's basically the airports going out there saying "We don't want an uncontrolled airspace filled with drones" and they're trying to nip it in the bud, presumably to lay some groundwork before everyone and their mother sends out a quadrillion of them. Or more likely, to prevent the fist accident by drone.

As much as I love to theorize that there are "evil" companies and organizations out there (apart from EA), the thing is that this could prove to be a pretty big mess if it's not controlled in any way. It doesn't mean that there can't be drones, just that maybe not everyone should be allowed to send them out en masse without a bit of training or regulation. That to me, sounds fair, even if the FFA did go overboard and seems to want to hog the airspace.
 

Kahani

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Lil_Rimmy said:
It sees a person? It sees a person in a window which other people could already see? It sees you having sex? What, will it stop and film a porno?
Yes, that's exactly the problem. Not that they will all do that of course, but that in the absence of any regulation it's entirely possible for someone to do so. The legality may already be covered by other laws, since I'm fairly sure you can't just walk up to someone's house and film them having sex using nothing other than your legs and a regular camera, but with unregulated drones allowed to fly anywhere they like such laws become unenforceable. If you see someone sneaking around your garden with a camera, you can call the police. What do you do if you see a hundred drones flying past your house? How could you even know if one of them might be doing something suspicious?

having drones fly over in PUBLIC where people can already see you and helicopters already do the same thing - what's the problem?
Ultimately, ease of access. Sure, a helicopter could fly over my house right now, and in theory someone could hire one of the sole purpose of filming everyone in their homes. But that's not exactly a cheap, common thing to do. On the other hand, you can easily get a quadrocopter and decent camera setup for maybe £300. Junk mail was entirely possible before the printing press was invented, but because of the cost and difficulty in actually producing and delivering large amounts of letters it obviously wasn't an issue. Technology that allows pretty much anyone to mass produce leaflets means it's now a huge issue. Same for drones. It's not that they allow us to do things that were previously impossible, but simply that they make certain actions far cheaper, easier, and in this case harder to even know if something dodgy is going on at all.

Note that I'm certainly not suggesting we should simply ban them as some have suggested. That would be a completely ridiculous response to an extremely useful technology. Indeed, I'm still planning with a group of friends to sort out a quadrocopter, gopro and raspberry pi for filming us kayaking. There are all kinds of very useful and/or interesting things drones can be used for. But that doesn't mean it should just be a wild west with no regulation at all. There are very real concerns about privacy, among other things, and it would be best to try to address them before they become a major issue as the technology gets cheaper and more popular.

Smilomaniac said:
Amazon (who started this whole thing)
Wait, what? You think Amazon started the idea of using drones? Maybe you didn't notice, but this article is about someone using one to do filming, which is something that was happening long before Amazon ever even mentioned the things. Drones have been in commercial use for a while now. Amazon are not one of the pioneers in using them, and will probably never use them at all [http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/12/03/on_the_matter_of_shooting_down_amazon_delivery_drones_with_shotguns/].
 

Cognimancer

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Kahani said:
Wait, what? You think Amazon started the idea of using drones? Maybe you didn't notice, but this article is about someone using one to do filming, which is something that was happening long before Amazon ever even mentioned the things. Drones have been in commercial use for a while now. Amazon are not one of the pioneers in using them, and will probably never use them at all [http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/12/03/on_the_matter_of_shooting_down_amazon_delivery_drones_with_shotguns/].
That's true, but it is what started the whole media frenzy about drones and likely the cause of FFA taking a very high interest.
Besides, the point was "big business" and in the post I quoted, Amazon would be an example of that.
You avoided the context of my post :)
 

Kahani

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Smilomaniac said:
That's true, but it is what started the whole media frenzy about drones and likely the cause of FFA taking a very high interest.
Besides, the point was "big business" and in the post I quoted, Amazon would be an example of that.
You avoided the context of my post :)
No I didn't, but you certainly seemed to have completely missed the context of the entire thread:
Cognimancer said:
the root of the FAA's claim was a policy notice from six years ago
Remind me again when Amazon started talking about drones?