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This via The National Law Review…
November 2014 was a busy month for the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) industry. In the same week that CNN reported companies were offering $100,000 salaries to Unmanned Aircraft System (aka drone) pilots, the National Transportation Safety Board held that the Federal Aviation Administration was authorized to assess a $10,000 penalty against a commercial UAS operator and that UAS satisfy the statutory definition of aircraft. Huerta v. Pirker, NTSB CP-217 (Nov. 18, 2014).
The NTSB’s decision is noteworthy because in the commercial aviation industry, the FAA has the discretion to assess penalties against the employee, the aircraft operator, or both. That UAS are in fact aircraft, subject to FAA regulations, will allow the agency to apply the same discretionary enforcement scheme towards the UAS industry, both operators and employees, as to the commercial aviation industry.
Further, the FAA is two years behind schedule in publishing UAS regulations, thus there are no regulatory standards for commercial UAS operators. At present, the FAA has a general prohibition against commercial UAS operations, but it has granted individual waivers to specific UAS activities on an ad hoc basis (the details of this are outlined under the FAA part 333 exemption process). The requirements for the waivers varied based on the nature and location of the activity.