FAA takes first legal action against model airplane pilot. Raphael Pirker was fined $10,000 for illegally operating a drone for commercial purposes and flying it “in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.” Pirker is fighting the citation by challenging the FAA’s assertion that it has the power to supervise the use of unmanned drones. In 2007 the FAA banned the commercial use of unmanned drones. If Pirker prevails, the FAA’s 2007 ban on the commercial use of unmanned drones may be repealed.
The FAA has issued many cease-and-desist letters to commercial operators of model aircraft. Some companies have had to close their doors, but others continue flying. Those who fly are usually doing aerial filming, real estate surveying, or aerial crop imagery. Flying model aircraft has been around for quite a while. The first National Aeromodeling Championships were held in 1923. The American Academy of Model Aeronautics has over 170,000 members.
Raphael Pirker, 28, is a Hong Kong-based drone parts supplier. He has captured aerial video over Rio De Janeiro, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Statue of Liberty, to name just a few of his clients’ locations.
The FAA got involved when he was on the job for the public relations firm in 2011. They had hired him to record video over the University of Virginia. (What US President founded this university?) It’s quite a video as you can see, but the FAA’s citation says he is violating the rules by flying too low over vehicles, buildings, people, streets and structures, and even aiming the craft at a person These rules don’t apply to hobbyists, even if they are using the exact same model aircraft. It’s the commercial use of model aircraft that is where the law kicks in.