A federal judge has dismissed the Federal Aviation Administration’s only fine against a commercial drone user on the grounds that the small drone was no different than a model aircraft, a decision that appears to undermine the agency’s power to keep a burgeoning civilian drone industry out of the skies.
Patrick Geraghty, a National Transportation Safety Board administrative law judge, said in his order dismissing the $10,000 fine that the FAA has no regulations governing model aircraft flights or for classifying model aircraft as an unmanned aircraft.
FAA officials have long taken the position that the agency regulates access to the national airspace, and therefore it has the power to bar drone flights, even when the drone weighs no more than a few pounds.
There is increasing demand to use small drones for a wide array of commercial purposes. The FAA has identified the dividing line between a model aircraft and a small drone as more one of intent, rather than of technology. If it is used for commercial purposes, it’s a drone. If it’s used purely for recreational purposes, it’s a model aircraft.
However, “agency guidelines” are not law, regardless how many government agencies wish to believe otherwise.
This ruling establishes, at least for now, the right of individuals to use drones, something many believed was and should be only the government’s right to do. By allowing citizens the use of drones it maintains a closer balance of power between an ever power-hungry government and the people it may one day decide to oppress. This is clearly a 2nd Amendment issue.