Texas EquuSearch Resumes Controversial UAV Ops

Drone operator gets unofficial green light.

UAV Texas EquuSearch

UAV Texas EquuSearch

Photo credit: Maha Calderon, MahaPix Studios

Until the FAA has finalized its integration of UAVs into the national airspace system, an order that was mandated to be complete by 2015 but is likely to be delayed, the controversy over the use of drones continues. In the most recent debacle, a U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has tossed out a case against the government agency filed by a company out of Dickinson, Texas called Texas EquuSearch Mounted Search and Recovery Team.

Texas EquuSearch sued the FAA in an attempt to overturn an order sent in February prohibiting the company from its continued use of drones. The company has used unmanned aircraft to aid in the location of missing people since 2006. The three federal court judges found that the email notice sent by the FAA was "not a formal cease-and-desist letter representing the agency's final conclusion" and therefore the case did not qualify for review in the court.

Texas EquuSearch has since resumed its use of UAVs. Whether the FAA will pursue a legal cease-and-desist order remains to be seen. The agency said in a statement last week that it can issue Certificates of Authorization for operations such as those conducted by Texas EquuSearch. "We are not aware that any government entity with an existing COA has applied for an emergency naming Texas EquuSearch as its contractor," the FAA said.

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