16 October, 2013
The use of drones for civil, commercial and personal purposes is increasing. In the future, this will probably lead to more and more court cases in which drones are involved. Currently, there is a lawsuit going on in the United States that might have a huge influence on the commercial use of drones. It’s the first case in which the US government has sued a civil drones operator.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the national aviation authority of the United States, has sued Raphael Pirker for selling video images captured with a drone. Pirker filmed the campus of the University of Virginia and uploaded the footage to his website Team Blacksheep. On this website, he sells drones parts and produces on site photos and videos. An advertising agency approached Pirkin about using the campus videos for a commercial. Thereafter, the FAA classified Pirkin’s drone flight as a commercial flight. These types of flights are strictly supervised by the FAA. The FAA now claims $10,000 from Pirker and states that he was flying close to buildings and statues and almost hit somebody. According to Pirkin, these accusations are incorrect.
The outcome of this case may decide the boundaries of the use of commercial drones in the United States. If Pirker wins the lawsuit, it would mean that the FAA has no authority over model aircraft in national airspace, so commercial businesses and individuals would be free to capture video images with drones without fear of prosecution. If the court decides in favour of the FAA, the situation will be opposite: commercial flights with drones will fall under the supervision of the aviation authority.
We will follow this case with great interest.