FAA Settles Landmark Pirker UAV Case

** Patrick McKay/Wikipedia Creative Commons**

The case of the FAA vs. Raphael Pirker has finally come to an end with a settlement that reduces the videographer's $10,000 fine to $1,100 after he was charged by the agency for flying his Zephyr drone recklessly to capture aerial shots of the University of Virginia in 2011.

In court Pirker argued that the Zephyr was a model airplane that the FAA had no authority to regulate. A National Transportation Safety Board law judge initially agreed, but the decision was eventually overturned, effectively classifying small UAVs as aircraft that do indeed fall under the FAA's jurisdiction.

Pirker was the first drone operator fined by the FAA, launching a debate over the use of small UAVs for commercial purposes as the FAA started crafting regulations and later granting exemptions to more people and groups seeking to use them for a variety of commercial purposes, from aerial surveying to search and rescue to videography.

"We are pleased that the case ignited an important international conversation about the civilian use of drones, the appropriate level of governmental regulation concerning this new technology, and even spurred the regulators to open new paths to the approval of certain commercial drone operations," Pirker's lawyers said in a statement.

According to the terms of the settlement, Pirker isn't admitting guilt despite paying a fine, and the FAA will drop some of its charges against him.

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