FAA Appeals Judge’s Ruling on Commercial Drones

Arguing that the safety of other aircraft and people on the ground is in jeopardy, the FAA said it will appeal a judge's ruling that the agency lacks the legal authority to impose a total ban on commercial drone flights.

The FAA's action arose from a case involving Raphael Pirker, who was fined $10,000 for flying his remote controlled aircraft to film promotional videos for the University of Virginia Medical Center. The FAA says Pirker's flights ran afoul of FAA rules prohibiting the commercial use of drones. According to the agency, they are permissible only for personal use by hobbyists. The agency is currently working on new regulations that would allow other uses.

The FAA issued a statement on Friday announcing its decision to appeal the ruling by National Transportation Safety Board administrative law judge Patrick Geraghty.

"The agency is concerned that this decision could impact...the safety of people and property on the ground," the FAA's statement said.

Geraghty ruled that the FAA cannot impose or enforce a complete ban of drones over the continental U.S. The agency strongly disagrees, arguing that not only does the FAA have the authority, but such power is necessary to keep the skies safe for existing air traffic.

"There are no shades of gray in FAA regulations," the agency said. "Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft — manned or unmanned — in U.S. airspace needs some level of FAA approval."

The FAA said its appeal has the effect of staying the judge's decision until the full NTSB board makes a ruling.

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