FAA Guidance to Law Enforcement and case updates

Today the FAA issued guidance to law enforcement to assist them in understanding the regulation of UAVs and to help the FAA in its enforcement.

The document is linked here: FAA Guidance to Law Enforcement.  It lays out the legal means one can fly a UAV (model use exemption for non-commercial purposes, COA for public entities, Experimental exception, and Section 333 exemption).  It then goes on to discuss how law enforcement can assist the FAA.  The FAA has sent out numerous Cease and Desist Letters, but as discussed in previous posts, there has been only one known enforcement action.  I quote from the document below, but it does sound like the FAA is trying to get help from local authorities and in my opinion they are clearly mixing criminal and safety functions:

“While the FAA must exercise caution not to mix criminal law enforcement with the FAA’s administrative safety enforcement function, the public interest is best served by coordination and fostering mutual understanding and cooperation between governmental entities with law enforcement responsibilities. Although there are Federal criminal statutes that may be implicated by some UAS operations (see 49 U.S.C. § 44711), most violations of the FAA’s regulations may be addressed through administrative enforcement measures.”

Maybe my comments were premature regarding the FAA’s desire to focus on recklessness.  Time will tell whether this guidance provides the FAA with a glut of information with which to enforce their interpretation of the rules.

Also, I wanted to link to this blog post by someone in one of my UAV discussion groups.  The first case supports the thought that my previous comments were premature.  The second is a case I will try to keep an eye on:

  • Michael Huerta, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration v. Skypan International Inc.:  The FAA has brought a petition asking the court to order enforcement of a subpoena against Skypan.  Skypan had contracts valued at over $100,000 to take aerial photography pictures around New York City.  The FAA has been seeking a large number of documents.  I will try to get into the details at a future date, but needless to say this is costing Skypan a lot of money.  So whether you agree or disagree with the FAA’s interpretation of the rules for commercial use, you cannot deny the headache this is causing Skypan.
  • UAS America Fund, LLC, et al. v. Federal Aviation Administration:  I wrote about UAS America Fund shortly before Christmas.  I will write more about this case as well in the near future, but for now it is in abeyance.  This case relates the the FAA’s “Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft,” 79 FED. REG. 36,172 (June 25, 2014) which applies the rule for model aircraft to UAVs and therefore bans the use of UAVs for commercial purposes.

2 thoughts on “FAA Guidance to Law Enforcement and case updates”

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