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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  • 100KM
    Why don't you refund any money earned from the flights in question? Seems the taking of money for a spacific flight is the crux of the argument. Many people fly UAVs professionally. They just follow the rules. Many pro rc pilots fly professionaly every day. They just dont take money for a spacific flight. Also there is a little know rule that states a pilot can be paid for spacific flights if you are testing an aircraft intended for hobby use. Also you can be paid for promotional flights of an aircraft but the product must be intented for hobby use.
  • I'm happy to take questions about our legal brief (but not interested in debating the case in a forum).  Thanks for your interest.

  • I love Trappy's videos, but don't like his arrogant attitude towards safety of bystanders. If he stuck to terrain following down Alpine valleys or other remote areas no one would care. His defense document serves as a map of all the loopholes in the FARs. The FAA can't have it both ways. You are either a "model aircraft" or you are some other uav category which they haven't really created yet. They could just create a category of aircraft like they did for ultralights a long time ago(FAR 103). If your craft weight is < x and follows a sensible set of rules then your good. Go out of bounds like flying your phantom over Manhattan, then your in trouble. Especially if there's video of your face and launch area on the sd card. 

  • I mean, I don't agree with everything Trappy has done.  I don't always criticize it either.

    But in either case, I agree with the legal position.  The FAA has basically done nothing to control this situation, and their legal position to do anything at this point is pretty weak.

  • The reading of Trappy's defense pdf is a gem. FAA's shameless attack is destroyed purely and simply.

    "An interpretation advanced as a litigating position is considered under the same Skidmore standard, requiring that the court be persuaded that the interpretation is valid".

    "An agency's interpretation will be rejected when it is 'plainly erroneous or inconsistent with the regulation'".

    "If the FAA's implicit interpretation of model aircrat regulation were correct, none of these businesses would be legal".

    Beautiful words!

  • After reading the link from suasnews (, which is a very good read, I had to laugh at this part in the pdf: {If “model aircraft” were interchangeable with “aircraft” for purposes of existing FARs, they could never be flown at all because they must, according to FAA guidance, fly below 400 feet while also flying above 500 feet.}

  • Yup. And it's stunts like this that the FAA will use as an excuse to shut down reasonable and legitimate drone uses. 

  • Looks like a pretty good argument to me.

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