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Drone Search and Rescue Operation Wins Fight Against FAA 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the compelling-reasons-to-get-lost-in-the-woods dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Back in February, officials at the Federal Aviation Administration told a Texas search-and-rescue team they couldn't use drones help locate missing persons. The team, which is called EquuSearch, challenged the FAA in court. On Friday, the court ruled (PDF) in favor of EquuSearch, saying the FAA's directive was "not a formal cease-and-desist letter representing the agency's final conclusion." EquuSearch intends to resume using the drones immediately. This puts the FAA in the position of having to either initiate formal proceedings against EquuSearch, which is clearly operating to the benefit of society (as opposed to purely commercial drone use), or to revisit and finalize its rules for small aircraft entirely. The latter would be a lengthy process because "Congress has delegated rule making powers to its agencies, but the Administrative Procedures Act requires the agencies to provide a public notice and comment period first."
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Drone Search and Rescue Operation Wins Fight Against FAA

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  • by Todd Palin (1402501) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @07:10PM (#47491121)

    You can visit the FAA comment site to comment on proposed rule changes that address this issue. The comment period ends on July 25. The proposed rules will cripple drone use by civilians and also cripple most RC aircraft operations in the USA. The proposal is simply draconian. Check it out:
    http://www.regulations.gov/#!d... [regulations.gov]

    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @08:31PM (#47491421)

      It would also be a big help to send a copy of your comments to your congressional representative. This is especially true if your representative serves on the Aviation Committee that oversees the FAA. These are the members:

      Republicans
      Frank A. LoBiondo, New Jersey, Chairman
      Thomas E. Petri, Wisconsin
      Howard Coble, North Carolina
      John J. Duncan, Jr., Tennessee
      Sam Graves, Missouri
      Blake Farenthold, Texas
      Larry Bucshon, Indiana
      Patrick Meehan, Pennsylvania
      Richard L. Hanna, New York
      Daniel Webster, Florida
      Jeff Denham, California
      Reid J. Ribble, Wisconsin
      Thomas Massie, Kentucky
      Steve Daines, Montana
      Roger Williams, Texas
      Mark Meadows, North Carolina
      Rodney Davis, Illinois, Vice Chair
      Bill Shuster, Pennsylvania, (ex officio)

      Democrats
      Rick Larsen, Washington, Ranking Member
      Peter A. DeFazio, Oregon
      Eddie Bernice Johnson, Texas
      Michael E. Capuano, Massachusetts
      Daniel Lipinski, Illinois
      Steve Cohen, Tennessee
      André Carson, Indiana
      Richard M. Nolan, Minnesota
      Dina Titus, Nevada
      Sean Patrick Maloney, New York
      Cheri Bustos, Illinois
      Corrine Brown, Florida
      Elizabeth H. Esty, Connecticut
      Nick J. Rahall, II, West Virginia, (ex officio)

      It will be much easier to stop these regulations, than it will be to repeal them later. The skies should belong to the people, not the government. The time to act is now.

      • "The skies should belong to the people, not the government. "

        You mean the government for and by the people? The ones we elected to make up that list? Your exercise of writing those letters shows regulations should be at the behest of the people and this isn't us vs them.

        So please drop this "people or government" dichotomy. This sets us all back. It's ignorance, it goes against your point and tells people the government isn't ours to control. It's how we get regulations we don't like. Instead keep the first

    • by raymorris (2726007) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @09:06PM (#47491535)

      I've gotten involved in a couple of rounds of agency rule-making before and it taught me a few things. I learned that this is where the skills learned writing papers in school can really be useful. The folks at the FAA think they know something about this topic, so they tend to discount comments that sound like the person is spouting off emotionally without having any real knowledge of the subject matter. On the other hand, they don't know everything that everyone is doing in the field, so they'd like to hear comments from people doing different things. For example, my local university has a drone research center and the FAA doesn't know what all the research center is doing, so they can appreciate comments about using drones in a research and educational setting.

      IF you really care about this topic, it may be worth putting some time into writing your comments well, or supporting an organization who will, such as the model aircraft association.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      No they will not.
      Sheesh.

    • by oursland (1898514)
      Oh noes! I'll have to fly my RC aircraft within view!
    • by Lancer (32120)
      "Simply draconian". Maybe I'm missing something obvious, but from what I read the intent seems to be to ensure that hobby aircraft are being flown the way they've been flown for years. I've flown R/C and been a member of the AMA, so I have some experience here though I'm hardly an expert.

      I think the "problem" now is that, thanks to amazing technologies, it's so much easier to fly R/C aircraft than it has ever been. Because of these technologies anyone can learn to fly on their own, and that ends up bypass

  • ugh (Score:2, Insightful)

    "Congress has delegated rule making powers to its agencies"

    This is what makes those agencies so intimidating. They have given up control.

    • Whatever you may think bad about the FAA.......if congress had to make all the aviation rules themselves, it would be ten times worse.
  • both? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by waddgodd (34934)

    Can we have the FAA institute formal proceedings against Equusearch so they can get bitchslapped by whatever court they try it in AND have to go through the rulemaking again as well? Please?

    • Re:both? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BitZtream (692029) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @07:56PM (#47491279)

      No, stop being such an ignorant douche.

      The FAA had made the current policies to prevent idiots who think they know everything (i.e. people like you) who have more money than brains from getting a UAV and hurting people by dropping it on someones head, though their roof or flying it into another aircraft.

      All this court has said is that 'your policy isn't a regulation, YET'. Did you notice the YET part.

      The FAA is empowered by Congress via congressional order to regulate these activities. Its what they do. The only reason EquuSearch has 'won' here is because the FAA ISN'T RUSHING INTO MAKING A STUPID BUNCH OF REGULATIONS THAT WE'RE ALL STUCK WITH BECAUSE OF SOME ASSHOLE LIKE YOU. The FAA can fairly easily turn their current policies into law and there isn't shit you can do about it, its just a matter of time. Is that what you want?

      If you 'search the net' for events relating to drones ... take away the EquuSearch related results, you'll find that pretty much EVERY ONE OF THEM is some fucking moron doing something that either DID hurt someone, was dangers as shit, came very close to hurting someone, or certainly had the potential to hurt someone. That is EXACTLY what the FAA is supposed to prevent.

      As someone who flies UAVs for fun and profit (yes, I fly them illegally) I am in 100% agreement with the FAA at this point. I've been flying RC for almost 30 years and universally, the people who scream the loudest about the FAA regulation and policies are the idiots who get people hurt.

      What you don't want is the FAA getting pissed off at idiots like you and fast tracking a regulation that makes any autonomous or camera equipped aircraft of any size or use to require a Certificate of Airworthiness, which is the EASIEST thing for them to do. Then EquuSearch is done, and so am I, and so are a bunch of hobbyists ... because some asshole like you with no idea whats going on thinks the Gubment needs to get out of the way and instead gets the exact opposite of what you want. EquuSearch is an EXTREMELY rare exception to the rule.

      Screaming idiots like you aren't helping the cause. The FAA won't get 'bitchslapped', making these rules is their job, by law. The only court cases the FAA has 'lost' are ones that essentially say 'your policies are not regulations, go make them regulations'.

      The FAA making their current policies regulations is EXACTLY WHAT YOU DON'T WANT.

      So I restate my first sentence. Stop being such an ignorant douche.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        And just for the record, being legal with the FAA is a well understood and often used process, its expensive and time consuming, but every aircraft in US skies has done it already. Its not impossible to be legal, its just expensive. Again, safety is more important than your ignorance.

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          You're confusing compliance with safety.

          Many FAA regulations could be argued as making the sky less safe.

          Making $1000 worth of avionics cost $50k means that small airplanes don't use them, which means that pilots have less situational awareness. Why don't small planes have CatIII-capable ILS? We're talking about 1980s technology in many cases, and it is only expensive because of regulation. (And yes, I know there is more to Cat III than the hardware.)

          There is no reason to restrict the operation of light

      • Re:both? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Trailer Trash (60756) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @08:06PM (#47491303) Homepage

        If that's true then why do they care whether the usage is commercial or not? Have you read their little chart? Taking a picture of your house is fine, but a real estate agent doing the same thing is illegal. There's no difference between the actions and the aircraft - it's just the fact that money will change hands.

        If this had anything to do with "safety" and all that then it wouldn't matter whether money was changing hands.

        • Um... this is exactly how pilot licensing works - same aircraft, same actions, difference is money? Bam, you need a commercial pilot certificate, a private pilot certificate won't do. Commercial operators are held to a higher safety standard, which makes sense - money brings with it a set of pressures and constraints that your average weekend pilot doesn't have, so their skills should be better.

          Would you prefer the FAA require certification of all drone operators, commercial or not? Because they'll do that

      • The FAA had made the current policies to prevent idiots who think they know everything who have more money than brains from getting a UAV and hurting people by dropping it on someones head, though their roof or flying it into another aircraft.

        Nonsense. The current regulations don't do that. If they did, they would be based on drone weight, method of control, altitude, etc. rather than "commercial" vs "non-commercial". The polices appear to be designed solely to ensure that nobody creates any jobs for Americans, earns income to support their families, or offers useful services that other are willing to pay for.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          You are incorrect. The current regulation remove the profit motive from everyone.

          ". If they did, they would be based on drone weight, method of control, altitude, etc."
          They are working on those. Maybe you should pay attention instead of just spew nonsense?

          "rather than "commercial" vs "non-commercial""
          becasue it's the easiest way to do so until regulation are finished.
          They are making regulation and understanding the details.

          "The polices appear to be designed solely to ensure that nobody creates any jobs for

          • by sjames (1099)

            I am well left of the Democrats as they are today and I agree with ShanghaiBill. In what way is an attempted ban on all commercial use (which means employed use) not killing employment? As he said, the very same activity with the very same equipment and observance of safety is banned if it is commercial. If there was some articulable reason that commercial use would present additional hazards, that would be fine, but I have seen none and the FAA has offered none.

            Regulation is not intrinsically bad (in fact

        • by BitZtream (692029)

          The current regulations don't do that. If they did, they would be based on drone weight, method of control, altitude, etc.

          R/C aircraft also have rules related to these things, the current generation of quad just fulls well below the weight limit. Method of control is one of the points of contention, specifically the requirement for line of sight. Altitude is already limited to 400 feet AGL.

          Let me drop a 2 pound UAV on your head from even 10 feet above you, then will talk about how those rules need revising now that any idiot and his 8 year old son can control one. My lightest UAV weighs about 4, the largest about 12. The w

          • I fly kites. I have kites bigger than some of your flying machines. And they go way, way, way higher than 10 feet. I've run out 1000 yards before. I have two acquaintances who have broken 2 miles.

            There is no logical basis in applying the commercial vs. private airplane scenario to drones. The commercial regulations are there to protect.. passengers. The people on the ground need the same protection from crashing planes regardless of whether it's Delta's 737 or John Travolta's 737.

            Since there is no pas

      • Waddgodd simply asked a question and you go postal. This is not the work of a "screaming idiot" Calm down. This is a serious issue that is not well served by rants such as yours. If I had to pick the screaming idiot here I wouldn't pick Waddgodd.

        You say you operate illegally, and then you go off on the "douchbags" and "idiots" that also operate illegally. Take a look at yourself.

        The regulations might need to be revised, but making the entire RC hobby illegal is the wrong approach. If you really have b

        • by geekoid (135745)

          No, his post is exactly spot on.

          ", but making the entire RC hobby illegal "
          It, in no way, will do that.

          I've been an enthusiast since '79, off and on, not hard core.
          Also, I'm a thinker, can understand context and regulation, and look historically at how thing have happened.

          If you think the proposed regulation will outlaw RC, with then you are being an idiot. Literally., you are being idiotic. Stop it.

          • OK. The proposed regulations are complex, so let me give you one example to illustrate my point. The proposed regulations require the RC pilot to notify any airport within five miles before flying an RC aircraft of any kind, even if the aircraft is a childs toy being flown in a suburban backyard. This requirement presumably really means ANY airport. Almost any town of 15,000 people has a small airport. Larger cities have multiple small airports in addition to maybe a major airport. Most of the small

            • On top of that, it's extra stupid, since as a private pilots you don't even need to call the airport when you are within 5 miles. It's more regulation than a person flying in a plane is subject to.

        • by BitZtream (692029)

          Because he's an ignorant douche who thinks the FAA is wrong and is talking about getting 'bitchslapped'.

          He's the kind of person who causes the rest of us problems and that sort of ignorance pisses me off.

          At no point did I say I was for making the hobby illegal. His sort of ignorant response and the public behaving like that is what will result in the hobby being regulated to all hell and back.

          The reason the hobby has been so loosely regulated to date is because we've been self policing and proactive about

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If you 'search the net' for events relating to drones ... take away the EquuSearch related results, you'll find that pretty much EVERY ONE OF THEM is some fucking moron doing something that either DID hurt someone, was dangers as shit, came very close to hurting someone, or certainly had the potential to hurt someone.

        I've been paying attention to the almost daily news stories about "drones," and I have not observed what you claim. The vast majority are people spooked by multirotors hovering around.

        A commercial drone at a wedding [nbcnewyork.com]
        A creepy guy flying a multirotor around a medical faciltiy [thesmokinggun.com]
        NYPD getting excited about another multirotor [myfoxdc.com]
        FAA warns a multirotor pilot to stay at low altitude [cbslocal.com]
        "Drone" crashes in someones yard [cbslocal.com]
        "Drone" videos Pirates baseball game [cbslocal.com]
        Drug smuggling with a multirotor [yahoo.com]
        "Drone" reported outside someone's apartm [cbslocal.com]

      • So you are saying that government can be the solution to some problems when they are at the will of the people and when people aren't lazy and ignorant we can keep them from being the cause?

        I never bought political one liners. Thanks for understanding there is nuance and a middle way.

      • BitZtream, I don't think EquuSearch is an "EXTREMELY rare exception to the rule." UAV are already extensively used by nonprofits and researchers in ecology, poaching prevention, and in my case, volcanology. These positive uses, by nonprofits and universites, have been around for years. However, we are forced to do things in a manner that the FAA claims is illegal, and live in fear of lawsuit.

        If I understand correctly you are saying that the FAA's June Interperative Ruling, which bans FPV and claims that
        • by BitZtream (692029)

          Random anti-poaching people are examples of doing it wrong, just like the jackasses on Whale Wars. Every example of anti-poaching with UAVs 'I've SEEN' has been an example of breaking the law because its okay for you but not them.

          If I understand correctly you are saying that the FAA's June Interperative Ruling, which bans FPV and claims that model aircraft are subject to the same rules as full-sized aircraft (all in direct opposition to the 2012 Reauthorization Act which says FAA cannot regulate model aircraft at all),

          You're utterly wrong on your interpretation of this. It reiterates that FPV is banned. This isn't new. Doesn't stipulate that RC aircraft are required to follow the same rules as full sized aircraft at all, unless they want to operate for commercial purposes, but again, this is

      • What you don't want is the FAA getting pissed off at idiots like you and fast tracking a regulation that makes any autonomous or camera equipped aircraft of any size or use to require a Certificate of Airworthiness, which is the EASIEST thing for them to do.

        But this is essentially what they've already done. They've said a CoA is required if you take pictures with a model aircraft for profit, and they've said that their word is enforceable by law. Here are the regulations I think we actually need, probably just for RC aircraft big enough to hurt someone: - Traceable identification for individual UAVs - ADS-B Transponders for UAVs large enough to damage aircraft - Prohibitions on flying over people and roads - A quick, easy, licensing scheme that allows exempti

      • by PvtVoid (1252388)

        The FAA had made the current policies to prevent idiots who think they know everything (i.e. people like you) who have more money than brains from getting a UAV and hurting people by dropping it on someones head, though their roof or flying it into another aircraft. [...] As someone who flies UAVs for fun and profit (yes, I fly them illegally) I am in 100% agreement with the FAA at this point. I've been flying RC for almost 30 years and universally, the people who scream the loudest about the FAA regulation and policies are the idiots who get people hurt.

        This little rant reminds me very much of the foaming at the mouth that occurred when cheap GMRS radios first came on the market: a hobby that had previously been limited to a small, insular group of uber-geeky hobbyists suddenly became accessible to anybody with a few bucks to spend, and they couldn't fucking stand it. Times change. It takes very little skill to fly a modern quadcopter (and, I might add, so so safely). There will always be dumbasses in the world. But the genie is not going back in the bottl

      • Can't really speak for the poster you're chastising .... but perhaps at least some of his anger is perfectly justified? IMO, the core issue is that our government is still very much caught up in the idea that we want it to legislate our safety, even when it costs us our personal freedom.

        Many U.S. citizens really aren't on-board with that. Some of us actually dare to question why, for example, we should receive citations from police for not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle, or for choosing not to

      • I disagree strongly on three specific points:

        1. The FAA obviously cannot prevent all, or even most, of the bad stuff that happens. A few years ago a plane ran out of fuel and crashed into a house 1 1/2 blocks from my house. The pilot died. If anyone had of been home, everyone in the house would have been dead, probably instantly. It's rare occasion, but it goes to show that the FAA isn't going to solve all problems.

        2. I am much more comfortable with an agency of government doing nothing, than doing so

  • ...clearly operating to the benefit of society (as opposed to purely commercial drone use)...

    Is this some kind of anglo-american thing? Over here the reason commercial entities get tax breaks is because they should be operating to the benefit of society. Economic speculation and other short-sighted ventures are tolerated as the exception and not the norm of society.

    • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

      Is this some kind of anglo-american thing? Over here the reason commercial entities get tax breaks is because they should be operating to the benefit of society.

      Hey now - That's just crazy talk!

  • Well, this is incorrect: "EquuSearch, which is clearly operating to the benefit of society (as opposed to purely commercial drone use)"

    People who buy goods and services in the commercial sphere do so because they expect to benefit. Otherwise, they'd keep their money. Those people are part of society.

    That the providers of those goods and services profit (or hope to, soon) doesn't change those facts.

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