Trappy's Counsel File Motion To Dismiss


Well it's begun and this case will have an impact on all of you in the USA in one way or another. For those that did not hear about it Trappy is facing a $10,000 dollar fine.

The Complaint alleges that on or about October 17, 2011, Mr. Pirker (a Swiss citizen residing overseas) was the “pilot in command” of a “Ritewing Zephyr powered glider aircraft” in Charlottesville, Virginia. Compl.   It next asserts that “[t]he aircraft referenced above is an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).”  As a matter of undisputed public record, a Ritewing Zephyr is in fact a popular type of radio-control model airplane made of a kind of styrofoam and weighs approximately four and a half pounds once equipped with batteries, radio, motor, and other components.

The Administrator alleges that Mr. Pirker’s Zephyr was equipped with a camera, that Mr. Pirker operated the model for the purpose of supplying aerial video and photographs of the University ofVirginia campus to an advertising agency, and that he was compensated by that firm for the video and photographs.  4-6. The Complaint notes that Mr. Pirker does not hold an FAA pilot’s certificate.

The balance of the Complaint sets out a list of allegedly dangerous characteristics of Mr.Pirker’s operation of his model airplane on October 17, 2011. It alleges that he “operated the abovedescribed aircraft at extremely low altitudes over vehicles, buildings, people, streets, and structures.”  More specifically, it alleges, inter alia, that he operated the model airplane “through a UVA tunnel containing moving vehicles,” “below tree top level over a tree lined walkway,” “within approximately 15 feet of a UVA statue,” “within approximately 50 feet of railway tracks,” “within approximately 25 feet of
numerous UVA buildings,” and “directly towards a two story UVA building below rooftop level and made an abrupt climb in order to avoid hitting the building.”

Patrick Egan of sUAS News was given access to documents today and he wrote:-

Without a doubt, there is a lot riding on this issue for both the community and FAA. As we have seen in the past, people start to line up on those different sides of those issues with independent views on how the law works, what image the community should portray. Whatever the eventual outcome, we should at the very least have a better understanding and some clarification on how the process is supposed to work, and discern where exactly the U.S. RPAS community stands.

More at

Trappy, along with Chris Anderson is a speaker next week at the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference

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  • Wonderful reading. Thank you Brendan and Raphael for that!

  • We filed a Reply brief in response to the FAA's Opposition.


  • I think there's not much new info in this. they are obviously waiting for the trial and for us to present evidence. the interesting part is the part where they say that the 2007 policy compliance is not mandatory.

  • So, the FAA are hinging their entire argument on whether the operation of Mr Pirker's "aircraft" was in a reckless and/or careless manner, and they want Mr Pirker to supply evidence to prove the contrary?  Surely the burden of proof falls on the FAA that it was careless or reckless and not that it only appeared to be so? 

    Of course anyone who has seen Hollywood boom-crash-bang rubbish on the big screen would have seen a lot of apparently careless/reckless operation of machinery in the process.  I say apparently because everyone understands that these scenes are generally created with much care and attention to safety.  So, if the FAA is relying solely on the video as their evidence of alleged recklessness, well...

  • Guys, I'm all for making the laws clearly defined and calling out the FAA if they are imposing fines where they can't, but you are all over the place and are taking it too far.

    @Sebastian: It doesn't matter if 5 pounds of styrofoam can hurt a statue. "Ability to hurt property you're near" is not a clear definition for whether or not it's safe, and is a terrible rule for a law. A small helicopter can kill a man, a 3 pound multirotor can crash through a window, and, falling from 1000 feet, a 1 pound plane can break bone.

    @ Bill Patterson, you're conflating "Laws" and "Regulations". The Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) DO "carry the weight of law" and are definitely enforceable. Just because there are no "laws" does not necessarily mean it's not illegal. There are several pilots who have gone to jail, let alone passengers violating the FARs.

    I know it's a topic that we all feel passionate about, but we still have to be reasonable about it, or we're going to seem like a community of angry nutbags.

    In other news, in yesterday's sUASNews podcast, Trappy's lawyer stated that they are expecting to receive a response (I believe they said it's called "Opposition to Motion to Dismiss") in 7-10 days, which was delayed due to the government furlough.

  • I don't think any of this is "Illegal", as there are no Laws.

    There are only regulations which can only result in fines. 

    @ Andy - You prove my point. There's a long long long history of people flying RC for money. Now some one with a typewriter writes on letter head paper that it's not allowed (without the process of review), thousands of people still do it, then all of a sudden they come down on a single person? Can't do that. It was simply unenforceable to begin with, and you can not pick and choose people you don't like to make examples out of. 

  • I still don't get it why it's illegal to fly next to a statue, I mean come on, if a 5 pound styrofoam block could hurt it, it wouldn't survive a storm.

  • Will S, perhaps he flies professionally in some other jurisdiction and was flying pro-bono in the US... 

  • Flying for competition money and bonuses at AMA sanctioned fields is just a tad different than buzzing high-rise buildings in NYC for pure sensationalism. Sorry, but not even close. RC competitions have been held internationally since the 1950s, folks are ok with that.

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