The FAA's Cease-And-Desist Orders to Drone Pilots Are Bogus, Appeals Court Rules

July 18, 2014 // 04:47 PM EST

Flying drones for search-and-rescue purposes is legal, and all the cease-and-desist orders the government has sent drone pilots are bogus, an appeals court judge ruled today. It's the second time that the Federal Aviation Administration has been rebuked by a judge for trying to force drone pilots to stop flying despite there being no regulations against it.

This now becomes the second time a federal judge has ruled against the FAA's practice of trying to stop commercial drone pilots (or, in this case, a nonprofit) from working.

It's a huge win for Texas Equusearch, a volunteer, nonprofit search-and-rescue team that has been flying drones since 2007. Earlier this year, the FAA sent the organization's drone pilot, Gene Robinson, a cease-and-desist email saying that the group was "operating outside of the [FAA's] provisions, stop immediately." Three judges with the Washington DC Court of Appeals ruled that the FAA's email is a bogus order. Read the entire article here

Read the entire arti


Image: Gene RobinsFlying drones for search-and-rescue purposes is legal, and all the cease-and-desist orders the government has sent drone pilots are bogus, an appeals court judge ruled today. It's the second time that the Federal Aviation Admini

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Comment by F. C. Bearsch on July 19, 2014 at 8:02am

The United States legal system although complicated it is indeed impressive. Following this has become increasingly hard due to the combination of state legal ruling, some imposed local level legislation, other changes in rules for certain contained areas and most recently the FAA's statement on FPV...

Thankfully case law is in this subject of controversy seems to be keeping up with the mandates and overturning flawed initial judgments due to the reasons many of us have questioned  like the above. Typically if the group or activity is very organized history has proven that self management in many cases will be much more effective than a public option oversight, providing better compliance and cooperation.

Drone share and other platforms for sharing data, if modified to incorporate live information could prove effective in planning for the Air Space G and E class avoidance system it seems really the answer rather than over reaching and probably innovation destroying policy. 

If in theory the system used a basic location data and placed your Geo Fensed dome in the area that you plan to take off, this could be fed to a cloud server location, like droneshare. This then could integrate with Google Earth just like the tlog files but now just a Geo fensed shape at the base station location. 

Sometimes it could be a lo-tech answer and if white reflective large letters were printed on recycled polyester non woven gray goods maybe 100' x 50' that said...


This could come in all Phantom boxes with a handful of tent stakes and recommended to be  displayed to warn anything flying overhead...

The quicker we as a community develop a solution that satisfies most of the concerns the better, as the federal suggestions so far have prove they are misguided. My ideas above are really just thinking outloud and hope that they spur some discussion.

Comment by Jonathan Hair on July 19, 2014 at 8:31am
Hooray! A win for the community.

However, this will probably be short lived once the FAA does release their rules.
Comment by T. CHOICE on July 19, 2014 at 8:50am


Comment by crystal garris on July 19, 2014 at 9:09am

The legislative branch makes the rules. The executive branch enforces the rules. The judicial branch interprets the rules. 

That means:

#1 impossible for FAA to "make rules"

#2 impossible for FAA to "interpret rules" 

The only thing the FAA has the constitutional ability to do is inforce the rules.

Comment by Gary McCray on July 19, 2014 at 9:54am

Throughout this whole mess the FAA has been making the demand that people do what they say without any legal basis for doing so.

It is a considerable relief that so far at least the courts have noticed that too and ruled against the FAA,

In fact the FAA has and is still continuing to make it's preposterous claims that what it says you have to do is what you are legally required to do.

And they are and will continue to threaten us and bring cases to court even though clearly without legal basis.

It is about time that some serious counter-suing for harassment and lost revenue started taking place.

By making the claims that they have they have prevented hundreds (or thousands) of business's from being able to pursue their endeavor and have cost many millions of dollars in lost revenue.

They have also retarded growth of that business to the tune of even more millions of dollars.

The FAA is a giant out of control bureaucratic juggernaut that needs to start acting responsibly and should be forced to compensate for the damage that it has done and is doing.

The fact that so far they have been able to act as though they care not one whit what anyone else thinks of their actions really needs to come to an end.

Comment by Stefan Gofferje on July 19, 2014 at 10:32am

Somebody should actually read this ruling!

The judges did not make such a ruling! The petitioners complained against an FAA "decision" they received by emails and the judges dismissed that complaint because that email was no "decision" but merely a "statement of opinion".

Rather, given the absence of any identified legal consequences flowing from the challenged email, this case falls within the usual rule that this court lacks authority to review a claim where an agency merely expresses its view of what the law requires of a party, even if that view is adverse to the party.

I think, that Motherboard writer interprets the case a bit overenthusiasticly.

The FAA could still issue an actual decision or warrant which THEN could be complained against and THEN the judges would make an actual decision about the case instead of just saying "we are not making any decision because you don't have a case".

Comment by Gary McCray on July 19, 2014 at 12:12pm

I agree Stefan, reading it I also conclude that the court simply dismissed the entire thing because it was not a legal action in the first place.

Rather than seeking a stay of execution, they should have been suing the FAA for unjustified and undue harassment and in the case of a search and rescue effort or possibly for criminally interfering with matters potentially having lethal consquences.

Then they could have made the case that the FAA was claiming legal authority it did not have to interfere with the commission of their search and rescue efforts.

Of course, that path is still open to them, If in fact the FAA as a government agency is subject to Civil Suit.

Comment by BluSky1 on July 19, 2014 at 2:21pm

My opinion which I have loudly voiced to the FAA

FAA cease and desist was dismissed against Texas Equusearch. Proving the appeals courts intention all of FAA cease and desist letters to drone pilots are bogus. I would say the FAA will have to actually prove a drone operator is a threat to the national airspace. Not just scream out blanket proclamations like spoiled brat king. To issue any cease and desist letter you would need to have an actual law the person broke and an established fine or method of punishment. The entire FAA mentality that you have some magnificent god given authority over our airspace is incorrect . The USA is a nation of democracy you are not the end all be all decision makers. The people are and the people have elected congress to make those choices not the FAA. Its up the FAA to propose fair and safe regulations for drones in to the national airspace the ultimate decision rests with CONGRESS our elected representatives not the FAA.

Comment by Gary McCray on July 19, 2014 at 2:23pm

+1 BluSky1

Comment by Timothy Clemans on July 19, 2014 at 4:41pm


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