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Lawsuits challenge FAA drone, model aircraft rules



By JOAN LOWY

WASHINGTON (AP) - Model aircraft hobbyists, research universities and commercial drone interests filed lawsuits Friday challenging a government directive that they say imposes tough new limits on the use of model aircraft and broadens the agency's ban on commercial drone flights.

The three lawsuits asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the validity of the directive, which the Federal Aviation Administration issued in June. The agency said the directive is an attempt to clarify what is a model aircraft and the limitations on their operation.

The FAA has been working on regulations that would permit commercial drone flights in U.S. skies for more than 10 years, but the agency is still at least months and possibly years away from issuing final rules to permit flights by small drones. Regulations for flights by larger drones are even farther away.

Part of the agency's challenge is to distinguish between planes flown by hobbyists and those used for commercial applications, a distinction that's become harder to draw as the technology for model planes has grown more sophisticated.

A law passed by Congress in 2012 directed the FAA to issue regulations permitting commercial drone flights by the fall of 2015, but prohibited the agency from imposing new regulations on model aircraft.

The FAA directive is a backdoor imposition of new regulations on model aircraft hobbyists and commercial drone operators without going through required federal procedures for creating new regulations, said Brendan Schulman, a New York attorney representing the groups that filed the lawsuits. Federal procedures require an opportunity for public comment on proposed regulations and an analysis of the potential costs of the regulations vs. the benefits.

"People who have been using these technologies for years in different ways are concerned that they are suddenly prohibited from doing so without having their voices heard, and without regard to the detrimental impact on the commercial drone industry," he said. Schulman pointed out that hobbyists have been flying model aircraft nearly 100 years, but he knows of no instance in which a model aircraft has caused the crash of a manned plane or helicopter.

"In situations where there really is no safety issue there appears to be not just some restrictions, but an outright prohibition on activities that have been done for a long time very safely," he said.

An FAA spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuits.

The lawsuits were filed by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which represents more than 170,000 model aircraft hobbyists; the Council on Governmental Relations, an association of 188 research universities; and several commercial drone and model aircraft interests. Among them are UAS America, a fund that invests in the commercial drone industry; SkyPan International Inc., an aerial photography company; FPV Manuals LLC, a company that sells video systems for unmanned aircraft operators and an association representing commercial drone operators. All argued that the FAA policy would impede their activities, from hobby use to research and innovation.

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rsnapper65 August 23 2014 at 4:46 AM

the government wants to be the only ones to spy on us

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1 reply
aaldrew rsnapper65 August 23 2014 at 12:23 PM

RIGHT.

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docmetcalf1955 August 23 2014 at 5:59 AM

typical of a democratic regime... over tax over regulate and oppresive laws

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1 reply
caseyhd docmetcalf1955 August 23 2014 at 12:26 PM

Care to explain how you are over taxed when rates are currently at historic lows?

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1 reply
William caseyhd August 23 2014 at 12:52 PM

They are not at historic lows..are you out of your mind? You must be confused with the fact that 47% pay no taxes.

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SRJimVal2 August 23 2014 at 7:34 AM

"In situations where there really is no safety issue there appears to be not just some restrictions, but an outright prohibition on activities that have been done for a long time very safely," he said.
This is just another attempt to control normal Americans and take away more of their rights, Just like gun control! Soon, if the public allows this, they will become robots. This is disgusting.

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aaldrew August 23 2014 at 12:22 PM

The feds want CONTROL. Just like Obama who wants to control us completely as our KING.

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1 reply
Henry Bevis aaldrew August 23 2014 at 12:48 PM

EXACTLY

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stengernc August 23 2014 at 12:18 PM

The government wants to control the internet, the power grid, the skies, the ammo/guns, the food distribution and water supplies. So you really don't have a democracy and it does not matter which political party is in charge because it is the super rich that own the shadow government, the officials that carry out the daily routine.

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1 reply
tony.br1 stengernc August 23 2014 at 1:00 PM

Someone flies a drone over my house it WILL be shot out of the sky.

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jerry August 23 2014 at 11:02 AM

Our commie government is afraid that we will spy on them and the real truth of the loser, hairy reid and qween hilliary will get out.

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minimaniac99 August 23 2014 at 10:18 AM

Someone flies a drone here where live. If I had a shot gun I would blast it out of the air.

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3 replies
pdices1897 August 23 2014 at 6:12 AM

the FAA lol haha

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erink91321 August 23 2014 at 10:56 AM

There are many differences between Model airplanes and Drones. The big ones are Drones have Cameras that can invade Privacy, Drones are flown for much longer dictances and duration. When model airplanes crash they seldom do damage to person or property. When the heavier drones crash they can be fatal and do a lot of damage. Model airplanes do not usualy fly high enough to collide with manned aircraft. Drones do

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Viper1ex19 August 23 2014 at 10:14 AM

The FAA can't control their own employees...

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