Drone Flights Illegal.

Excerpt from above article:

Some very bad news for drone pilots this morning: An appeals board has ruled that the Federal Aviation Administration has wide latitude to make all drone flights illegal in the United States.

​The decision, by the National Transportation Safety Board, determined that the FAA's existing "aircraft" regulations can apply to model aircraft, drones, and remote controlled aircraft, which is perhaps the most restrictive possible outcome for drone pilots in a legal saga that has dragged on for more than a year.

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  • @ Brendan

    I think you are referring to the language and argument in your submission?  That has been responded to via the Board decision, so all I can do is refer to that.

    You know how to find me on private email, we can chat there, thanks!


  • Moderator
    I think they might have to be over 300lbs, but you chaps would have a better handle on it than me.
    49 CFR Part 830
    Notification and Reporting of Aircraft Accidents or Incidents and
    Overdue Aircraft, and Preservation of Aircraft Wreckage, Mail, Cargo
  • Bill,

    Defined for purposes of identifying what must be excluded from future regulations.

  • The reporting requirement that applies to people out there is different from the NTSB's statutory obligation to investigate accidents.

    One of various news articles on the tragedy in Brooklyn last September:


  • @John L and Brendan S

    Please see the preamble to the Federal Register notice posting the August 2010 revision to 49 CFR 830 et seq.  It is excerpted in a message from me on page 4 of this thread (and subsequently reposted by John L) and is consistent with NTSB practice since the establishment of the Board (nb: the NTSB has investigated collisions between manned aircraft and models as a "collision with object" by the manned aircraft.)

    At the time of writing of the 830 revision, "model aircraft" was not specifically defined in statute, but as of HR658 aka the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2012, it is.

  • Brendan S:  you're correct, I looked at "Civil Aircraft of the United States."  

    As for why they didn't investigate the Brooklyn accident, it beats me.  Can you remind me of the circumstances?

    Reporting requirements are in 830.5; 830.2 is Definitions, and says, in relevant part, "Unmanned aircraft accident means an occurrence associated with the operation of any public or civil unmanned aircraft system that takes place between the time that the system is activated with the purpose of flight and the time that the system is deactivated at the conclusion of its mission, in which:

    (1) Any person suffers death or serious injury; or

    (2) The aircraft has a maximum gross
    takeoff weight of 300 pounds or greater and sustains substantial damage.

    [53 FR 36982, Sept. 23, 1988, as amended at 60
    FR 40112, Aug. 7, 1995; 75 FR 51955, Aug. 24,

  • Moderator

    I think this move by the FAA will only create a new class of outlaw - the cowboy drone pilot. The FAA can pass new rules, but if the hurdle is too high, those who really want to fly are going to ignore them. 
    The biggest problem that I see with tha
    t is that prohibition creates criminals. Think of alcohol - during prohibition people did not stop drinking, they just went underground, and that's not good. Undergrounds create black markets, and the people that run those become criminals. 

    What was the difference between Auggie Busch and Al Capone? They both sold beer, but when Busch's beer got outlawed, Al Capone stepped in and filled the void. If a vendor didn't get paid by Busch, he went to court. Al Capone solved the same problems in a terrifying way.

  • John L:  civil aircraft are defined as "an aircraft except a public aircraft."  I think you looked at "Civil Aircraft of the United States."

    How is it that the NTSB did not investigate the fatal RC accident in Brooklyn a year ago?

    830.2 involves accident reporting requirements.  


    > In any case, I think you guys are looking at this in way too much of a "kid wanting to fly in the city park" kind of way.  If the gov. has the authority to regulate my private airspace then they own it.  If they own it then they can fly drones or allow people to fly drones right down to hover level.  Nobody want's that and nobody will stand for it.  It's a major problem with looking at it that way, and the courts have regularly sided with the landowner that they own the airspace up to a reasonable distance.

    Never thought about it this way. Very relevant.

    Great post.

  • The FAA clearly can regulate all public airspace.  As a matter of property rights I don't think it's wise to cede private airspace to the gov. in this case.

    Legally, precedents are usually set with analogies.  The rulings I've looked at draw an analogy between public air "highways" and regular highways, where there is plenty of existing case law that is well settled.

    500+ ft. is clearly a "public air highway" and the FAA has 100% authority to regulate it.  Over any public land the FAA would also reasonably have jurisdiction right down to the ground unless the public owner (city or state) wants to dictate their own rules for use.

    But, using the highway analogy, the gov. normally does not have any power to regulate how you drive on your own private land.  You don't need a driver's license to drive around your own trails or fields.

    I don't see why it would be any different with drones.  The authority to regulate comes from the public interest and the public nature of the land.  The state must first obtain an easement or force you to sell your land to them through eminent domain before they can build a highway through your land and force you to license your vehicle/drivers in order to drive on it.

    I don't recall the gov. ever buying or obtaining an easement through my airspace, nor seizing it through eminent domain.  They cannot pull over my quad (4-wheeler) and cite me for no license on my own property, so how could they do the same with my airspace?  Nobody as any legal right whatsoever to be below 500 feet above my property, so how can it be said that I do not own it 100%?

    In any case, I think you guys are looking at this in way too much of a "kid wanting to fly in the city park" kind of way.  If the gov. has the authority to regulate my private airspace then they own it.  If they own it then they can fly drones or allow people to fly drones right down to hover level.  Nobody want's that and nobody will stand for it.  It's a major problem with looking at it that way, and the courts have regularly sided with the landowner that they own the airspace up to a reasonable distance.

    The FAA has the authority to regulate the "nation's airspace", not MY private airspace right down to my house.  There has to be a "line in the sky" somewhere.  I own below it, and above it is the "nation's airspace" and the "public air highway".

    At some point the courts and case law will have to determine where that line is.  Wherever they draw it I will still own and have control of what goes on below it.  Exactly the same as a regular public highway.  There will be a real line where on one side I don't need a license because I own and have full unrestricted use, and on the other side I will be on a "public roadway" and need a license.  In past court cases there is always a line, it comes up all the time and if you're riding a snowmobile in the ditch they'll get out a measuring tape and determine if you were on private land or a public easement.  On one side you are unlicensed/unregistered and subject to fines and jail, on the other they can't do anything whatsoever to you.

    Property rights have steadily eroded over the years, and the laws will vary from state to state.  In many places you cannot even get a DUI on private property.  That is an example where even reckless behavior is not prohibited because the gov. simply does not have the right to regulate it.  In those cases the gov. has the further burden of proving you were reckless and you only get that charge, without the added DUI charge.

    The proper place for regulation of private, non "national airspace" areas is at the city level.  City government has long had the power to impose regulations on the basis that it impacts neighbors, and that is the real concerns that regulation would address.

    If the FAA does not, or is legally prevented from, regulating private airspace, cities will happily fill the gap.  If you only own a city lot then your flying clearly impacts the rights of your neighbors.

    In the vast areas of the US outside city limits drone activities have no impact or risk to neighbors and there is no public interest for the gov. to justify regulating the private airspace there.

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