Close to home in Hartford, CT, a UAV user was investigated by the FAA for flying his UAV over the police response to a fatal car crash on February 1, 2014. The FAA has released the FOIA report, with some minor redactions. – FAA FOIA
Police had asked the owner to stop using his UAV and he complied with the request. However, the FAA became aware of the issue from a news report and investigated the use. The owner of the UAV was also employed by a local news station, but stated he was acting in his personal capacity at the time.
The report states “With no evidence that a careless or reckless operation or commercial operation were conducted this matter is considered closed” [the grammar is the FAA’s, not mine].
I have written about Mr. Pirker at UVA, and I think this has some parallels. Mr. Pirker was fined for his reckless use. In this case, the user did not admit to commercial use, but he was working for a news agency and had his UAV over a serious police and medical situation. While the FAA noted the lack of evidence of commercial use, they could have pushed the issue based on some obvious assumptions; but they did not. While not as telling as Mr. Pirker’s case, it could be read to show that the real concern is reckless operation. The FAA will investigate commercial use, but if the user claims it was a personal use and it was done safely, there might not be anything that the FAA can do.
Please do not take this as my suggestion that safe commercial use is acceptable in the FAA’s eyes. They have said it is not. I am trying to analyze their response to figure out what is driving their regulatory actions.