Good news, I think. Last week the FAA issued a National Policy Notice (N8900.268) to its field inspectors, directing them to counsel and educate UAV operators before considering whether to take enforcement action. It is just three pages, with attachments. My take on this is that the FAA has taken a beating in the media and among the public in trying to shut down small UAV operators, whether it is search and rescue, beer delivery, filming a wedding, or other very low risk operations, and this is an effort to moderate that.
So, consistent with what the agency regularly assures the public – the FAA’s interest is in compliance, not enforcement (although enforcement is one or several means to achieve compliance) – this guidance instructs inspectors first to counsel the operator, and if warranted, send an “informational letter.” Enforcement action should be reserved for operators who are “uncooperative or intentionally noncompliant” or where an operation “poses medium to high risk” to the National Airspace System (NAS), and even in such a situation, the FAA should consider whether a warning letter or letter of correction instead of a civil penalty is appropriate. (An “intentionally noncompliant” operator is one who commits repeat or intentional violations.)