Sunday, March 9, 2014

What the Latest Ruling on UAVs Really Means...

Nothing.*

No really... the profound truth about this ruling is that it means absolutely nothing for most people and companies waiting for their chance to cash in on the Unmanned gold rush.  If you happen to be a small company or individual who wants to use your quadcopter to deliver beer, then you may be able to start doing that; just don't get too comfortable.  Also, I would advise against making any large capital investments in new equipment just yet since the FAA has already appealed Judge Geraghty's ruling.

For those of you who are far too busy to read the full decision, the bottom line is that the FAA made some mistakes in the wording that it used to identify traditional manned aircraft vs. model aircraft.  This mistake ensured that model aircraft (or UAVs) do not fall under the same FARs that manned aircraft do.  In addition, the Policy Notice that was used to ban UAVs in the first place was found to be an internal memo with no regulatory effect on the general populace.

Still, I'm not rushing out to buy stock in Tacocopter.  It's not because I don't love tacos (which I do) or because I don't think it's a good idea (which it is.)  At this point, the reality is that we simply can't have a million little aircraft flying around without some sort of regulation to keep everyone from running into eachother.  Private pilots can still file VFR and fly around without anyone knowing where they are, including that UAV carrying my delicious tacos.  I know it's a big sky and a little airplane, but bad things happen and we should take steps to mitigate those risks.  The FAA has to consider not only what the landscape looks like today, but also what it will look like in the future as more and more uses for UAVs become clear.

So does this mean that the FAA can't regulate the use of UAVs?  Yes and No.  For today, their power is limited, and you are free to take all the real estate photos you want.  That being said, I imagine the FAA will quickly correct their legal errors and force those little robotic cash cows (and their owners' revenue projections) back down to Earth.

Share your thoughts.  Should the FAA ease restrictions on commercial UAV use?

*Unless you happen to be Raphael Pirker who no longer has to pay a $10,000 fine to the FAA.


Full Decision from Judge Geraghty

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