The White House Phantom story hasn’t gone away. As I mentioned previously, this happened at 3 am in Washington DC, but it also turns out that the user was intoxicated. I already said he would be in violation of the ADIZ/FRZ, but here are a few other comments:
- The FAA can take enforcement action against an intoxicated user under 14 CFR §91.13(a) for “Careless or Reckless Operation of an Aircraft.”
- It can also take action under 14 CFR §91.17 “Alcohol or drugs” – No one can act as a crew member of an aircraft (Note than the FAA considers a pilot of a UAS a crew member and that the regulation says “of” not “on”):
- Within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverages
- While under the influence of alcohol
- While using any drug that affects the person’s faculties in any way contrary to safety
- While having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater in a blood or breath specimen.
- The District of Columbia (if he was operating from a location in DC under their jurisdiction), could prosecute under D.C. Code § 22–1321(a)(1) (Disorderly conduct). Disorderly statutes are written broadly, and there is an argument that operating while intoxicated would qualify if someone was aware and worried about a crash.
- It doesn’t appear to me that DC’s DUI statute would cover operation of a UAS while intoxicated, but other state laws might. As one example from my experience (on the prosecuting, not defense side): military UAS users can be charged under Article 111 (Drunken or reckless operation of vehicle, aircraft, or vessel).
In late-breaking news, a friend sent me this. DJI is sending out a firmware update that will prohibits its products from flying within 15.5 miles of D.C. Based on comments I’m reading, a lot of people with UAS are not even aware they’re violating FAA regulations by flying in DC. I know some other companies have added no-fly zones to their products as well. I’m sure the driving factor for DJI is the PR mess (who hasn’t seen the picture of the broken Phantom on the White House lawn), but it is a good way to educate users who aren’t familiar with VFR maps or airspace restrictions.
Here is an interesting video that was shared with me.
Some might think it is insensitive to record Auschwitz from a UAS, but my opinion is that it is important to share the history so that we remember what happened, and why it must never be repeated. Someone said that Auschwitz was “built for the negation of faith – faith in God and faith in man…[it was meant to] trample radically not only on love but on all signs of human dignity…built on hatred and contempt for man in the name of a crazed ideology.” Name the speaker? For me, it was is powerful to see from above and recall what man is capable of.