Judge Smacks Down FAA Authority Over UAS Operations (UPDATED)

The friendly skies may finally be opening up for small UAVs in precision agriculture (as longs as they remain below 400 feet).

Yesterday, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) administrative judge Patrick G. Geraghty granted a motion to dismiss in a case that will likely set a new legal precedent, striking down current FAA regulatory authority over UAS operations by ruling against two FAA Memoranda (2005’s Memorandum AFS-400 UAS Policy 05-01 and a 2008 revision) and a 2007 FAA Notice OF Policy (07-01) as “not meeting the criteria for valid legislative rule making.”

Geraghty states in his ruling: “Significantly, both Memoranda specifically eschew any regulatory authority…stating respectively that ‘this policy is not meant as a substitute for any regulatory process’…As policy statements of an agency are not binding upon the general public these policy Memoranda cannot be, and are not, found as establishing a valid rule for classifying a model aircraft as a UAS.”

By arguing that the fixed wing UAV he piloted on Oct. 17, 2011, falls under the FAA definition of a “model aircraft” and that there is “absence of a valid rule for application of authority over model aircraft flight operations,” Raphael Pirker and his legal team exploited a longstanding loophole that allows model aircraft hobbyists to evade the FAA’s regulatory reach.

“Complainant (FAA) has historically, in their policy notices, modified the term ‘aircraft’ by prefixing the word ‘model’ to distinguish the device/contrivance being considered…FAA has distinguished model aircraft as a class excluded from the regulatory and statutory definitions (of aircraft),” ruled Geraghty.

As a result of his finding, Geraghty ordered Pirker’s Motion to Dismiss hereby granted and the FAA’s order of a $10,000 assessment against Pirker vacated.

AUVSI Responds

Today, Michael Toscano, president & CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), released the following statement on the National Transportation Safety Board’s Pirker Decision:

“We are reviewing the decision very carefully and we have also been in touch with the FAA to discuss its implications and the agency’s response. Our paramount concern is safety. We must ensure the commercial use of UAS takes place in a safe and responsible manner, whenever commercial use occurs. The decision also underscores the immediate need for a regulatory framework for small UAS.”

Steve Hogan, a Tallahassee, FL-based attorney well-versed in FAA regulations and an instructor of “Drone Law” at the Unmanned Vehicle University, responded to an email seeking comment on the implications of the decision. “I have read the opinion, and there is still a lot to think about. The best I can say is that this is a step in the right direction. The FAA has a variety of options now, including an appeal and emergency rulemaking. I would expect that the FAA will do something soon.”

If appealed, the case will reportedly be heard before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

UPDATE: FAA Responds, Appeal Grounds All Commercial Flights For Now

From an FAA news release dated March 7, 2014: The Federal Aviation Administration today issued a notice appealing a decision by an NTSB Administrative Law Judge in the civil penalty case, Huerta v. Pirker.

“The FAA is appealing the decision of an NTSB Administrative Law Judge to the full National Transportation Safety Board, which has the effect of staying the decision until the Board rules. The agency is concerned that this decision could impact the safe operation of the national airspace system and the safety of people and property on the ground.”

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Equipment Stories

EquipmentKinze, Raven Develop Touchscreen Monitor For 4900 Series Planter
July 23, 2014
Kinze Manufacturing announces a partnership with Raven Industries to develop a standalone monitor solution for the Kinze 4900 series planter. Read More
EquipmentMU Professor: Drones Have Major Potential In Agriculture
July 18, 2014
Despite strict federal rules regulating drones for agricultural usage, University of Missouri Professor Bill Wiebold believes it’s important to plan for the future. Read More
EquipmentKinze Electric Multi-Hybrid Planter Moves Closer To Full Launch
July 15, 2014
Based on early successes with the multi-hybrid planter, Kinze announced that it is putting the model into limited production for the spring 2015 planting season. Read More
EquipmentNovariant, Leica Collaborate On SteerDirect ES PLUS
March 24, 2014
The collaboration utilizes Novariant’s fourth generation Mechanical Drive Unit (MDU) with Leica Geosystems’ guidance technology. Read More

Trending Articles

Data5 Key Precision Farming Trends Showcased At The InfoAg Conference
July 30, 2014
No other event in agriculture quite captures the latest trends in precision farming like The InfoAg Conference. Find out what was hot at this year's event in our photo gallery. Read More
EquipmentNew Soil Sampling System Debuts At InfoAg
July 28, 2014
North Carolina grower Allan Baucom has what he feels is a better idea for automating soil sampling, and it’s on Read More
EquipmentKinze Electric Multi-Hybrid Planter Moves Closer To Full Launch
July 15, 2014
Based on early successes with the multi-hybrid planter, Kinze announced that it is putting the model into limited production for the spring 2015 planting season. Read More
SoftwareTrimble Adds Multi-Spectral Processing Capabilities To Connected Farm
June 19, 2014
Trimble has added another new agronomic service to its Connected Farm solution. Read More
ImageryInfoAg 2014 Is Next Week, Record Crowd Anticipated
June 11, 2014
A new and improved InfoAg 2014 program hits the hot topics of today: unmanned aerial vehicles, big data and wearable computers. Read More
ImageryAUVSI Unmanned Systems 2014: 14 Cool Things We Saw For Precision Ag
May 20, 2014
We were in attendance May 13-15 in Orlando, FL, for the AUVSI 2014 Unmanned Systems conference. Here are 14 cool ag-related things we saw. Read More

Latest News

DataBig Data Workshop Set For Monday, Aug. 25 In Ames
August 20, 2014
"Big Data: Managing Your Most Elusive Farm Asset" is set to bring growers, educators and industry experts together Aug. 25 on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, IA. Read More
WinField logo
DataWinField Launches Data Silo, Mobile App Store
August 20, 2014
Answer Tech by WinField is a web portal and mobile app store, while the WinField Data Silo is a secure, cloud-based data-management system. Read More
UncategorizedUSDA Launches Website To Provide Guidance For New Farme…
August 20, 2014
Farmers work hard while dealing with unpredictable weather, long hours and countless risks. New farmers face even more start-up obstacles Read More
DataVilsack, USDA Pledge $2 Million To Lake Erie Water Qual…
August 19, 2014
The new funding is the latest contribution of resources to the Lake Erie watershed from USDA, which has invested $46 million in the watershed since 2009. Read More
DataLeadership Change Ahead For AgGateway
August 19, 2014
Current Executive Vice President and COO Wendy Smith will move into the role of AgGateway President and CEO beginning in 2015. Read More
PrecisionAg Institute1 On 1 With Paul Schrimpf: Topcon Precision Agriculture…
August 13, 2014
Harlan Little of Topcon Precision Agriculture talks with PrecisionAg Executive Editor Paul Schrimpf about key issues in precision agriculture, how positioning and steering systems are still a key focus for the company, data privacy and much more. Read More
AwardsPrecisionAg Awards Of Excellence Winners Talk About Car…
August 13, 2014
Winners of the 2014 PrecisionAg Awards of Excellence share insights into their successful careers and what’s driving advancement in farming technology. Read More
Raven - Precision Simplified® - Company Logo
EquipmentRaven Introduces New Nozzle Control System
August 12, 2014
Hawkeye is an innovative pressure-based nozzle control system that provides the precise and accurate application across the entire sprayer boom, and the entire field. Read More
GuidanceSouthern States Coop Expanding RTK Offerings
August 11, 2014
Southern States Cooperative has announced plans to offer Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) technology to its precision ag customers in the southeast. Read More
DataGROWMARK Adds Three To Agronomy Team
August 8, 2014
GROWMARK is pleased to welcome three employees into new roles within the Agronomy Services Department. Read More
EquipmentPrecisionHawk Obtains FAA Authorization For UAV Researc…
August 7, 2014
PrecisionHawk announced today its UAV platform, the Lancaster Mark III, has been granted the first FAA Certificate of Authorization for operation at the N.Y. test site. Read More
Variable Rate Technology
DataFarmers Edge Forms Joint Venture With FarmCommand
August 6, 2014
Farmers Edge, a global leader in variable rate technology, has formed a joint venture with ISOBUS, M2M and telematics provider, FarmCommand. Read More
SteeringAg Leader Introduces OnTrac3 Steering System
August 4, 2014
OnTrac3 represents the next generation of the company’s assisted steering system and features a number of improvements to the Electronic Control Unit and the Mechanical Drive Unit. Read More
EquipmentOcean Optics Launches Spectral Sensing Kit For UAVs
August 4, 2014
The STS Developers Kit brings together its powerful STS spectrometer, a Raspberry Pi microcomputer, customizable software and wireless capabilities in a single package. Read More
DataCTIC Indian Creek Watershed Tour Two Weeks Away
August 4, 2014
The tour takes place Aug. 19 at several locations near Fairbury, IL, and is hosted by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) and the Livingston County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). Read More
AwardsPrecisionAg Awards Of Excellence Winners Honored At Inf…
July 30, 2014
Winners of the PrecisionAg Institute's Awards of Excellence were honored at The 2014 InfoAg Conference in St. Louis. Read More
SoftwareDoug Mills Joins MapShots As Business Manager
July 30, 2014
Mills will have responsibility for enhancing the strong software development and outstanding customer service functions of the company through a focused sales and marketing strategy. Read More
GPSFirst Galileo Commercial Service Demonstration With Enc…
July 30, 2014
The Early Proof of Concept team has successfully tracked the encrypted Galileo E6-B and E6-C signals broadcast by Galileo satellites. Read More