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For the First Time Ever, the FAA Is Trying To Fine a Drone Hobbyist 297

Posted by Soulskill
from the be-careful-with-your-rc-helicopters dept.
Jason Koebler writes: "For the first time ever, the Federal Aviation Administration is trying to fine a hobby drone operator, a development that threatens to throw the whole hobby into disarray if the agency successfully levies the fine. While the FAA has explicitly said it doesn't want anyone flying drones commercially, it has never issued similar suggestions about hobby flight, which is why it has been just fine for some guy to fly a drone above a tornado, but illegal, in the FAA's eyes, for a journalist to do the same. That has changed, according to the agency. A spokesperson for the FAA told me that the agency 'has proposed a civil penalty against an individual in New York City. The operator, who is a hobbyist, flew a drone carelessly or recklessly and violated air traffic rules as well. He ran the drone into a couple of buildings and it crash-landed 20 feet from a person (video).'"
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For the First Time Ever, the FAA Is Trying To Fine a Drone Hobbyist

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 02, 2014 @09:52AM (#46899179)

    There is quite a lot of difference between fining someone for behaving in a way that puts other people in danger and fining someone for operating a drone.

    The only problem I have with this is that FAA is involved.

  • wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday May 02, 2014 @09:54AM (#46899201)

    So we're surprised when a government agency uses common sense when enforcing a law now? This sounds exactly like what the FAA should be regulating...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 02, 2014 @09:57AM (#46899229)
    I agree. If he violated any restricted airspace, bring in the FAA. A few dented buildings, a frightened bystander, and a broken drone? Call the cops and haul him away for reckless endangerment and destruction of property. Make him pay for being an idiot that way.
  • Obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TWX (665546) on Friday May 02, 2014 @10:00AM (#46899269)

    The operator, who is a hobbyist, flew a drone carelessly or recklessly and violated air traffic rules as well. He ran the drone into a couple of buildings and it crash-landed 20 feet from a person.

    If I engaged in reckless behavior that posed serious threat to others or to their property then I too would expect to be fined if caught.

    The FAA probably figured that the press and the paparazzi would be all over the use of drones if they were allowed to, and the ban was to prevent a bunch of people that had no interest in the technology itself from attempting to poorly use it. Hobbyists, on the other hand, are by definition interested in the technology, and are more likely to learn how to master its use. This particular hobbyist obviously wasn't in control, hence the fine, but he was also dumb and used the device where he shouldn't have been, ie, a congested urban environment with bystanders.

    Play with this stuff where there's room and a lack of people to hurt and one should be ok.

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday May 02, 2014 @10:08AM (#46899357) Homepage

    LDRS craft, by definition, are the responsibility of the FAA - they fly into controlled airspace. This thing did not.

    Put the drone in front of an runway - FAA has jurisdiction.'
    Put the drone in front of a balcony - not so much.

    Unless this is an end run to see just exactly what they can get away with.

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Friday May 02, 2014 @10:26AM (#46899557) Journal

    This. The FAA should be concerned with intrusion into air lanes and restricted airspace, not some ass crashing it onto a bicyclist. The BATF generally does not concern itself with people misusing guns in general as that is a local police issue.

    In any case, are the Regulation-4-Everything Yes!!! types starting to see an issue with agencies adopting new memes to self-authorize control in new areas, outside normal political channels, which is to say, channels directly responsive to the voter?

  • by bigpat (158134) on Friday May 02, 2014 @10:29AM (#46899595)

    I think the FAA has jurisdiction over anything that flies.

    I think that we need Congress to step in and limit the FAAs jurisdiction to above 500 feet and above a certain size. Giving the FAA jurisdiction over frisbees, bows and arrows or toys with propellers is an absurd use of Federal government regulations and a complete waste of resources for them to be trolling You Tube for videos for accidents with toys that didn't actually cause any serious harm.

  • by fnj (64210) on Friday May 02, 2014 @10:47AM (#46899815)

    So you would let them fly above a busy runway as long as they are at 499 feet or below? I didn't think so. Would you have a weight limit? What if it's only 4 feet long but weighs 50 kg? I thought so. How about flying above a military base or a nuclear power plant to gather intelligence?

    I have an idea. Let's leave the FAA alone. They are doing exactly what they were created to do, and they are doing a good job.

  • by tlhIngan (30335) <[ten.frow] [ta] [todhsals]> on Friday May 02, 2014 @10:50AM (#46899849)

    I agree. If he violated any restricted airspace, bring in the FAA. A few dented buildings, a frightened bystander, and a broken drone? Call the cops and haul him away for reckless endangerment and destruction of property. Make him pay for being an idiot that way.

    Technically, the airspace IS restricted - by FAA rules. Typically you're not allowed to fly anything below 1000' AGL in a populated area. And a city is definitely a populated area.

    There's a reason the light RC aircraft you see sold in stores are marketed as "Park Flyers" - you may not need to fly them at an RC park, but you should be flying them in a less populated park.

    Granted, the FAA is unlikely to prosecute hobbyists that don't endanger lives or property (they could, mind you, but probably won't), but be an idiot and they can come down.

    In fact, hobbyists often have unofficial governing bodies for that reason - while every one participating doesn't have to be "licensed" by the body, the body exists to help keep the sport in good reputation by creating processes, procedures and regulations to ensure they can coexist with others who may not share the same love of the sport. And yes, they may also try to restrict people's ability to fly "complex" RC vehicles until they've shown the skill to do so (again, it's all voluntary).

    RC hobbyists aren't dumb, they know it only takes a couple of idiots to screw them over, which is why they subject themselves to voluntary regulation. It's also a lot easier to do advocacy when you can prove you're on the up and up, and disavow anyone who flouts the rules.

  • by dywolf (2673597) on Friday May 02, 2014 @10:56AM (#46899917)

    We already covered ALL this ground 2 months ago in http://news.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]

    It's really quite simple: The FAA controls ALL US airspace, from the ground up.

  • 499 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 02, 2014 @11:03AM (#46900001)

    "as long as they are at 499 feet"

    below 500' is (or at least should be) considered private property, in this case you'd be trespassing on airport property which usually results in a quick response from armed, uniformed & angry individuals in cars with flashing lights. Also airports usually get easements over adjoining property effectively buying the airspace above those properties, so flying anywhere near an airport would be trespassing on the airport. A few people arrested, charged with trespassing and their drone/RC craft confiscated by regular everyday police would get the message through far more clearly than the FAA fining someone. Giving the FAA cart blanch authority over anything that flies is idiotic. Next they'll be wanting to regulate those little $20 electric helicopters that you fly in your house, if they manage that next will be paper airplanes.

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