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FAA Shuts Down Search-and-Rescue Drones

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the go-hire-some-people-who-understand-technology dept.

Government 218

An anonymous reader writes "For about a decade, Gene Robinson has been putting cameras on remote-controlled model aircraft and using them in search-and-rescue missions. But now the Federal Aviation Administration has shut him down, saying his efforts violate a ban on flying RC aircraft for commercial purposes. Robinson doesn't charge the families of the people he's looking for, and he created a non-profit organization to demonstrate that. He also coordinates with local authorities and follows their guidelines to the letter. The FAA shut him down because they haven't designed regulations to deal with situations like this, even though they've been working on it since 2007. 'So it's difficult to argue that his flights are more dangerous than what goes on every weekend at RC modeling sites throughout the United States, which can include flights of huge models that weigh 10 times as much as Robinson's planes; aerial stunts of nitromethane-fueled model helicopters; and the low-altitude, 500-kilometer-per-hour passes in front of spectators of model jets powered by miniature turbine engines.'"

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Fuck the FAA (2)

CheezburgerBrown . (3417019) | about 5 months ago | (#46734477)

Just keep doing it until someone physically stops you, then hope you have enough money to win in court.

Re:Fuck the FAA (2)

drew_92123 (213321) | about 5 months ago | (#46734509)

Somehow I don't think the local police or sheriff are going to turn down the help regardless of what the FAA says. Seems to me the potential bad press due a a fatality should he not be allowed to help would be enough to keep them away... Of course everybody seems to be going crazy these days so who knows.

Re:Fuck the FAA (5, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 5 months ago | (#46734523)

Always ask for forgiveness rather than permission.

Re:Fuck the FAA (2)

geekmux (1040042) | about 5 months ago | (#46734629)

Always ask for forgiveness rather than permission.

Ask for a lawsuit rather than permission.

There we go. Fixed that for the 21st century litigious society we live in.

Ignorance will cost you in the world we live in today. Wise up.

Re:Fuck the FAA (5, Informative)

mlyle (148697) | about 5 months ago | (#46734659)

Yah, that's not a great move vs. a civil regulator like the FAA or FCC.

He has a pilot certificate that they can revoke; they can impose civil (not criminal) fines of tens of thousands of dollars before an administrative law judge, where there's no standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt (only preponderance of the evidence).

Re:Fuck the FAA (1)

CheezburgerBrown . (3417019) | about 5 months ago | (#46734703)

Don't be a sheep.

Re:Fuck the FAA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734831)

yeah, don't be a sheep, slashdot stands behind you, we'll be right here egging you on! you can count on us! egging!

Re:Fuck the FAA (1)

mmell (832646) | about 5 months ago | (#46735689)

He's trying to avoid being led to the slaughter. Not sheeplike, IMHO.

Re:Fuck the FAA (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#46735025)

I'd expect that he'd get community support of the fine or greater, should it come to that. I would continue to operate and document the FAA's case for them, plead not guilty and admit it in open court. Then go to the public with the FAA's stupidity and ask for public support. That type of civil disobedience has worked before. It would work again, for a good cause (like someone trying to follow the rules, but the rules not existing to follow, and the FAA spending more time persecuting search and rescue workers than writing rules so that he can follow them). A $10,000 fine? He'd have that raised in an hour, once his prosecution went wide-spread.

Re:Fuck the FAA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46735219)

If he has a pilot certificate, shouldn't there be some kind of program to certify pilots for search and rescue and acting in the emergency conditions? If there is, he could perhaps certify himself, develop the service as a non-profit and let the officials call him for resources. Surely that would be equivalent of the officials asking a civilian helicopter to assist in a search with a competent pilot for the FAA?

Smart move, loser. (1)

westlake (615356) | about 5 months ago | (#46735395)

Always ask for forgiveness rather than permission.

How often has that strategy ended in a geek pleading guilty to a felony charge?

Re:Fuck the FAA (4, Insightful)

sir-gold (949031) | about 5 months ago | (#46734745)

All this guy has to do is wait for the next missing person to show up dead from exposure/injury, and then go to the local paper saying "I could have saved this person, but the FAA wouldn't let me"

Re:Fuck the FAA (4, Informative)

DaMattster (977781) | about 5 months ago | (#46734795)

Well said! Fuck the FAA and fuck most of the federal government too. Many of those pea-brained morons couldn't make it in the real world anyhow.

Re:Fuck the FAA (1)

ComputersKai (3499237) | about 5 months ago | (#46735139)

Maybe the government should take a look at their own drone safety record.
But anyways, I highly doubt the FAA will step in for legal action if he could potentially aid the search for missing children. Unless they are utterly ignorant bureaucrats, even they wouldn't want to face the public backlash and outrage.
Then again, if you look at the NSA, government agencies don't always care about public opinion, regardless of how badly their reputation is damaged.

And what of the risks from unregulated flight? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46735283)

In this case that's a potential risk, but what about all the other potential uses for this technology? There was that woman in a triathlon that was hit by a drone that was supposed to be taking aerial shots of the race. Until there are regulations covering what is and isn't appropriate conduct by operators it's best not to allow them to fly in commercial operations.

Also, they are working on regulations, it's not like they're sitting on their asses twirling their mustaches as children and hikers go missing.

Re:Fuck the FAA (1)

MrBigInThePants (624986) | about 5 months ago | (#46735419)

"Unless they are utterly ignorant bureaucrats"

and from the article

"...they haven't designed regulations to deal with situations like this, even though they've been working on it since 2007."

Seem a connection between those two statements yet??

Re:Fuck the FAA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46735249)

The police are allowed to use UAVs for any number of purposes many of which are questionable in my humble opinion. Does the FAA ruling affect them? No. Thought as much.

Re:Fuck the FAA (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 5 months ago | (#46735611)

The police are allowed to use UAVs for any number of purposes many of which are questionable in my humble opinion. Does the FAA ruling affect them? No. Thought as much.

I would imagine so. Police helicopters still have to follow FAA flight rules. Yes, they get exemptions for things, but they are covered by regulations nonetheless.

Re:Fuck the FAA (1)

selectspec (74651) | about 5 months ago | (#46734695)

Amen

Revolting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734489)

Better get cracking FAA. You're lagging.

It's been a lot longer than 2007 (1)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | about 5 months ago | (#46734521)

And they're nowhere near coming up with guidelines, as I'm pretty sure there's honestly no way to do this AND maintain current safety levels. At this point I'm pretty sure that manned and unmanned flight are just fundamentally incompatible.

Re:It's been a lot longer than 2007 (3, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | about 5 months ago | (#46734649)

And they're nowhere near coming up with guidelines, as I'm pretty sure there's honestly no way to do this AND maintain current safety levels.

Current guidelines already include rc aircraft. The only difference here is 'commercial.' The FCC has guidelines for non-commercial use, but haven't done anything for commercial use.

This is something that is bothering a lot of people, but this particular guy is becoming the face of the problem for political reasons, because if you want to get something done, it is easier to show someone with a sympathetic cause that can get people outraged.

This is similar to calling some group of people bigots. The FCC is an anti-search-and-rescue bigot.

Re:It's been a lot longer than 2007 (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 months ago | (#46735053)

That's the whole bullshit here. It is not commercial if it is not commercial. So what's the fuss?

It is a Hobby (2)

microcars (708223) | about 5 months ago | (#46734529)

Re:It is a Hobby (0)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 5 months ago | (#46734603)

According the IRS if you run a business and don't make a profit, it is considered a HOBBY.

Sort of like Bill Gates' non-profit is a "hobby"?

Re:It is a Hobby (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 5 months ago | (#46735039)

When you have billions of dollars your versions of "hobby" may be very different from what a normal person would do

Re:It is a Hobby (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 5 months ago | (#46735327)

When you have billions of dollars your versions of "hobby" may be very different from what a normal person would do.

Maybe so, but going back to original post about what the IRS considers a "hobby", a "non-profit" is not the same as a business that makes no money.

Re:It is a Hobby (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 5 months ago | (#46735415)

Depends in what sense you use the word.

Re:It is a Hobby (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 5 months ago | (#46735487)

Depends in what sense you use the word.

No, not to the IRS, and that was the original question.

Re:It is a Hobby (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 5 months ago | (#46735567)

Believe it or not in a conversation people do not repeat the same point over and over again. The granchild of a post can legitimately not be talking exactly about what the grandparent was talking about

Re:It is a Hobby (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 5 months ago | (#46734665)

Doesn't matter how the IRS considers it, it only matters how the FAA considers it. Welcome to the friendly world of bureaucracy, where bunnies hop through the fields and birds fly through the air and nothing can ever get done. Just ask Kafka.

Re:It is a Hobby (2, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 5 months ago | (#46734757)

Lots of non-profits pay their executives salaries between 150,000 and 650,000 dollars. Plus lots of benny's like free gala's every month, travel, etc.

And, just thought of this: Churches are non-profit and make millions or even billions of dollars, their executives travel and drive really nice cars and have plush offices (not to mention owning tons of land).

Re:It is a Hobby (1)

PRMan (959735) | about 5 months ago | (#46734921)

A typical church of 700 people has an annual budget of around $2 million. Out of that, they have to pay for 5-6 pastors, office staff, janitorial staff, etc. And their bills are huge with electricity, water, printing costs, etc. Nobody's getting rich except for a very small percentage on TV.

Re:It is a Hobby (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46735659)

Yeh... a lot of that work was done by volunteers who felt guided by God to do this work until the little church I hung out with "grew up" and "became a business".

The Apostle Peter told us not to "carry a begging bag" when spreading the Word of God, but to the new business style church, its new leaders well steeped in the academics of theology, it seemed the Passing of the Plate Ceremony was the centerpiece of the service.

Disgusted, I quit going.

Church to me became like shopping at some local markets who have people outside, all asking "dollar! dollar!".

They may "teach" faith, but when it comes to demonstrable practice, they too like the formalization of promissory paperwork ( pledge forms ). It kinda renders the "lilies of the field" sermon meaningless. I am supposed to have faith, but they want me to sign papers.

I am just a little guy. I am up against a well dressed guy with kilowatts of microphones. I know where the power in that church is coming from: Edison.

Re:It is a Hobby (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 5 months ago | (#46734901)

You should actually read your link.

If you INTEND to make a profit, it's a business. Even if you don't actually make a profit.

Re:It is a Hobby (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734985)

He also "created a non-profit" AND he does not charge. Good grief, at least read the whole article. He has expenses and no revenue stream.

Different agency different rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46735333)

Nonprofits are for the purposes of taxation, you'll typically have to file with various governments and if you comply with the regulations you're deemed to be a nonprofit. However, nonprofits vary in size, some of them consist of just one or two people and then there's hospitals and colleges where there might be thousands of employees that work there.

For the purposes that the FAA is dealing with it, the profit motive is far less important than the scale of the operation. The hobbyists get a pass in large part because having an RC helicopter with a range of less than a hundred yards is unlikely to result in significant disruption to air traffic. Whereas a set of drones that are designed to cover hundreds of miles of wilderness is far more likely to have unforeseen consequences.

Also, he's taking money from other people to provide the service, whether he can comply with IRS regulations is not relevant to whether or not he's a commercial interest with regards to the FAA or other government agencies.

Re:It is a Hobby (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 5 months ago | (#46735143)

This is solely for the IRS' purposes, to ensure that you cannot subtract losses related to your non-profitable business, from your other income or inflows into your business: in other words, the IRS "HOBBY" definition is for the purpose of maximizing government tax revenues.

Other regulators are not beholden to their position. IRS Will also reclassify as non-Hobby when it is in their interests to do so.

SAR (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 5 months ago | (#46734537)

If you have ever met the local SAR types I am willing to bet that they were instrumental in shutting him down. The last thing in the world they would want is their "Seniority" to be challenged by some upstart with easy to use technology. If you want to see the living defintion of a blowhard then go meet your local SAR.

I am not talking about professionals such as the coast guard but these local types who periodically call for hikers to be licensed and whatnot.

Think about how easy SAR could be with semi-intelligent drones. They could blanket an area, looking for heat signatures(or other sensory clues) from a very low altitude, and then when one was found could potentially fly right down to the source for a look. Also they could fly in dangerously poor weather, at night, and at little cost. Also the mathematical patterns they could be doing would be pushing up against 100% efficiency so there would be little human input required.

Re:SAR (2)

sribe (304414) | about 5 months ago | (#46734575)

If you have ever met the local SAR types I am willing to bet that they were instrumental in shutting him down. The last thing in the world they would want is their "Seniority" to be challenged by some upstart with easy to use technology. If you want to see the living defintion of a blowhard then go meet your local SAR.

Interesting. That's not at all the case where I live, so my perspective is completely opposite yours. Probably good for both of us to be reminded that the attitude of local SAR is going to be extremely variable across regions...

Re:SAR (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734823)

Probably good for both of us to be reminded that the attitude of local SAR is going to be extremely variable across regions...

Local attitude is local. News at 11.

Re:SAR (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 5 months ago | (#46735627)

Local attitude is local. News at 11.

10:00 where I live.

Re:SAR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734579)

Maybe they just don't want some aspie douchebag who thinks he is gods gift to search and rescue taking up their time and slowing them down?

Re:SAR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734693)

You just lost that bet: no local SAR types where instrumental in shutting him down. Gene *is* a local SAR type..

I have never heard anyone call for a requirement for hikers to be licensed. We can maybe be a bit gruff if once again we have to give up our weekend, risk our lives, just because somebody refuses to inform themselves. I'm sorry if you had a humiliating experience with that.

As for SAR being easy with "semi intelligent drones looking for heat signatures", you really have no clue what you're talking about, do you?

Re:SAR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734847)

As for SAR being easy with "semi intelligent drones looking for heat signatures", you really have no clue what you're talking about, do you?

As someone who has very little knowledge about search-and-rescue or the limits of drone technology, could you please explain why you think they're wrong?

Re:SAR (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#46735083)

You'd find hundreds of deer and no humans?

Re:SAR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46735181)

Victims tend to reduce their heat signature by bundling up or looking for shelter. Those that don't reduce their heat signature by dying of hypothermia. The current "drone intelligence" is not capable of differentiating between a human being, a deer, or a warm rock.
Currently their range is extremely limited (less then one square mile, or one hour) and they have to stay within line of sight of the base-station. This severely limits their coverage and usability in densely grown, or hilly area's (aka 99.9% of wilderness area's).
Drone's provide a unique and helpful perspective, and have helped safe numerous lives. Especially as we are getting less and less support from military helicopters they are (where?) a helpful tool. They are however currently not a viable replacement for ground search crew's.
Most SAR activities are done by volunteers. It doesn't get much cheaper then free, so I'm afraid there might be limited incentive to further develop the technology for these applications.

Right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46735375)

I also think it depends where you are, a SAR drone can cover a ton of ground and in areas where you have visibility, a few drones can cover more area than a few people. Also, around here we have a ton of rugged areas where drones would be useful. We also have areas where there's a lot of trees, but in my experience, the areas with the trees tend to be somewhat less dangerous as long as you don't encounter a bear and you're not unfortunate enough to get turned around. But, that still leaves a ton of area where a set of drones could quickly eliminate that, while people search along the trails and talk with hikers that might have seen the people they're looking for.

The other side of the state has much more open space and drones would make much quicker work of that than they would on the western side.

Re:SAR (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 5 months ago | (#46734969)

Most SAR types aren't in it just for the money. They actually do want to help. Saving money on much slower, wasted search time leaves far more resources for prevention and better equipment for when rescues for people, not just lost corpses, is still possible.

Human guidance is still needed because mathematics cannot reveal "it looks like there was a campground there, where did someone doing that get wood and water? where would they have seen light or sought shelter" without a lot more data and intelligence than a drone can provide, and without coordinating with ground based personnel who can look inside shelter.

Re:SAR (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#46735047)

The SAR types I know want amateurs out of the way because looking for one guy lost often ends up looking for 15 lost people. If he can help with demonstrably zero risk to himself, I don't know an SAR type that would be against it at all. They would just make sure he's lost next if he found the lost person and went directly to the private news helicopter with the information, rather than involving SAR.

This is only the beginning (1)

ThatAblaze (1723456) | about 5 months ago | (#46734561)

This is just the start of something larger. Drones will get smaller and smaller until the technology will be there to release a cloud of gnat-like drones to monitor the entire world. What will the FCC say then if the gnat operators start suing people who have wind power generators for destroying their property? They need a policy that stretches back as far as possible. Without a defined line to draw it's just a long series of incremental advancements between RC planes and gnat drones.

Re:This is only the beginning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734635)

What will the [FAA] say then if the gnat operators start suing people who have wind power generators for destroying their property?

You generally own the air rights above your property. Someone flying an unmanned aircraft into a windmill is more likely to be sued for causing damage to the windmill than the other way around, unless you violated local laws or zoning rules to construct your windmill.

Re:This is only the beginning (1)

PPH (736903) | about 5 months ago | (#46734723)

This. And large windmills are already required to be equipped with anti-collision lights and, if large enough, be included on air navigation charts, NOTAMS, etc.

Your drone has to navigate within the constraints of existing marking and mapping regulations and right-of-way rules.

Re:This is only the beginning (1)

ThatAblaze (1723456) | about 5 months ago | (#46734753)

Awesome. Looks like I'll be using old jet engines to keep drones off my property in the future. Suck them up and sell em for scrap.

Re:This is only the beginning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46735715)

Do I really own the air rights above my property?

I live close to a business which has a heliport, and the local police department has taken to using it as a practice area, and often circles overhead over and over and over doing practice landings.

They sometimes do this at 2AM.

Would the FAA stand up against a business with a heliport and revoke the license for having a heliport?

I am really fed up with it.

Regulations prohibit, not allow (3, Insightful)

WoodstockJeff (568111) | about 5 months ago | (#46734707)

It is a fundamental principle in the United States that, unless something is illegal, it is legal. Regulations, therefore, should enumerate what makes something illegal, not what makes it legal. To do otherwise prohibits the possibility of inventing better ways to do something, until/unless the regulations are modified to allow it.

The problem within the FAA is that they have regulations that work both ways. In most cases, they tell you what you CANNOT do to remain legal, in others, they tell you what you MUST DO to remain legal.

You gotta fight for your right to party! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734577)

Don't let the man keep you down brother!

Why do people still want to live in America? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734593)

you know emigration is possible,its time to start fleeing to first world countries guys that shit hole is falling apart

Re:Why do people still want to live in America? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46735065)

The boat (America) has a hole in it, and it's filling with water. Some of us choose to grab a bucket and bail out the water. Others choose to jump ship and swim away.

If nobody bails out the water, the boat will sink. Sink = mega corporations complete their take over of America and start some war that kills everyone on Earth.

So pardon me while I stay in America, trying to change people's minds and positively influence the voting population. You may leave if you wish.

But don't come crying to me when you're dying of radiation poisoning from the fallout of the war. You chose "emigration".

Didn't you get the memo? Drones are for killing... (1)

aristotle-dude (626586) | about 5 months ago | (#46734613)

The government wants to be the only group with drones and they like to use them for spying and killing rather than saving lives.

Re:Didn't you get the memo? Drones are for killing (2)

formfeed (703859) | about 5 months ago | (#46735087)

The government wants to be the only group with drones and they like to use them for spying and killing rather than saving lives.

That might actually work.
Instead of calling it a "Search and Rescue Drone" call it an unmanned aerial surveillance vehicle that could be used by small units to safely scan unaccessible terrain. Then tell your local senator that you are a small start-up military contractor who needs help cutting some federal red tape to do real life testing of your beta model by using it in cooperation with local law enforcement.

(Be sure to pronounce "vehicle" as Vee-Hee-Kal and the word "federal" always with some disgust in your voice.)

Re:Didn't you get the memo? Drones are for killing (1)

ComputersKai (3499237) | about 5 months ago | (#46735159)

Tell him also that you are searching for "potential target" in the fashion of a special ops agent in a 1900s movie.

Re:Didn't you get the memo? Drones are for killing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46735161)

Good idea, just rephrase everything to be hostile and generally illegal in nature.

Instead of "assist with search and rescue operations", say "provide aerial target location, identification and payload delivery capabilities to military and government agencies". The FAA can't get in the way of identifying targets, else how will other people know where to drop the bombs, or in the event of a payload allocation error, medical supplies.

Not just an RC Plane (2)

timeOday (582209) | about 5 months ago | (#46734623)

So it's difficult to argue that his flights are more dangerous than what goes on every weekend at RC modeling sites throughout the United States

I can't fully agree with that. RC planes don't tend to fly out of range because they have to be in sight. A remotely piloted drone is not flown in light of sight, so it could more easily be controlled up to altitudes that might pose a danger to aircraft, or out of radio range.

Not saying they should have shut this guy down, or that taking 9 years to make rules is acceptable. A SAR drone is almost certainly flying where there isn't much risk of crashing into anybody anyways. But keeping signal strength down into valleys would really present some challenges.

Re:Not just an RC Plane (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734827)

RC planes with FPV cameras mounted on them are far easier to fly, and thus safer. And keeping them in line of sight certainly does not stop them from going outside of radio range. It is good practice to have a slight curve to flights in case of radio loss or going out of range. The plane will slowly turn back into range eventually.

I highly suggest you go out and try one at any local meetup. RC people are friendly and it could give you perspective on what they, and little drones, are really like.

Re:Not just an RC Plane (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 5 months ago | (#46735739)

You don't want an rc plane anyway. You want an rc quadcopter or hexcopter. Able to hover perfectly stable at any assigned altitude, able to carry cameras and sensors that aren't streamlined without seriously affecting the flight profile, still have decent OTG speeds for this kind of application, able to go down *between* trees if there's just a little room and it has a decent camera system, good complement of nav/running lamps, etc.

The *last* thing I'd want to go hunting for something would be an rc plane or unstabilized heli.

Re:Not just an RC Plane (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 months ago | (#46735147)

Let's ponder for a moment... which one is probably going to be flown higher off the ground: A drone that aims to find something on the ground or an RC glider that aims to stay in the air as long as it can?

If the FAA is afraid of drones getting in the way of planes due to their flight level, they should probably be more concerned with model planes.

Re:Not just an RC Plane (1)

Kaenneth (82978) | about 5 months ago | (#46735255)

It's all well and good until it collides with a manned SAR Helicopter, killing a few paramedics...

What gives them the right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734685)

The Federal government is only supposed to be able to regular "interstate commerce". If there is no commerce (because it is non-commercial), and does not cross state lines, and is low enough altitude that it does not interfere with other aircraft that cross state lines, what right does the FAA have to regulate this activity???????

Re:What gives them the right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734797)

I guarantee he's crossed at least one state line in his actions.

Him claiming it's not commerce will be unlikely to persuade though.

Re:What gives them the right? (1)

Bartles (1198017) | about 5 months ago | (#46735479)

Then that flight would fall under the interstate commerce clause. The other flights would not.

upside down, back to front world (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734697)

This is the Orwellian police state in action, where the laws state what you can do, and everything else is prohibited. This is the polar opposite of natural law, where you can do anything except that prohibited by law.

Of course its completely immoral to prevent someone from helping when people desperately need help, but the controllers like to be in control, and they hate it when we bypass them and do our own thing.

Re:upside down, back to front world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734781)

This is the polar opposite of natural law, where you can do anything except that prohibited by law.

Fucking freshmen which their pop-philosophy bullshit. The only "natural law" - i.e. before humans - are the laws of physics, and they determine the entirety of what cannot and what can be done. As for human law, every freedom for one is a restriction for another - it's all about balance, regardless of how the ideologues rant.

Re:upside down, back to front world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734955)

wow, you must have stretched your one brain cell to make up that drivel. There is a natural law - and the FAA along with the rest of the American government are not abiding by it. And you are disobeying the laws of nature just by existing.

Re:upside down, back to front world (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 5 months ago | (#46735653)

A natural law? Ok, what is it and why is it 'natural'?

Government Monopoly (2)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about 5 months ago | (#46734711)

The government/NSA doesn't want it's monopoly on aerial observation and spying infringed upon.

Using the FAA's flawed logic... (2)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 5 months ago | (#46734777)

Using the FAA's flawed logic you could claim that it is illegal for amateur radio operators to help in search and rescue or during natural disasters emergency operations. I know this is not the case.

Re:Using the FAA's flawed logic... (3, Interesting)

DaMattster (977781) | about 5 months ago | (#46734815)

In fact, if your radio controlled aircraft is operating on HAM bands then you can probably, successfully argue emergency and disaster assistance. I know because I am a General-class HAM radio operator.

Re:Using the FAA's flawed logic... (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 5 months ago | (#46735043)

The frequency you use to communicate with the drone have little to do with it. It's the actual activity being performed by the drone and if the drone is of sufficient size it is still falls under to jurisdiction of the FAA. The FCC only regulates the radio communication portion. Congrats on your license. I'm an extra class former section manager of ARRL myself.

Re:Using the FAA's flawed logic... (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 5 months ago | (#46735193)

BTW my answer in no way reflects the opinions of the ARRL which I haven't been a part of in quite a while. Just saying congrats from an old and experienced ham.

Re:Using the FAA's flawed logic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734951)

Using the FAA's flawed logic you could claim that it is illegal for amateur radio operators to help in search and rescue or during natural disasters emergency operations. I know this is not the case.

I don't get it, the courts have already ruled against the FAA doing this. I remember one case just last month, although the actual article appears to be unavailable. [[http://news.slashdot.org/story/14/03/07/0527245/drone-pilot-wins-case-against-faa]]

Ummm, what about the delivery drones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46734791)

Seems this is inconsistent information, since there are so many articles here on /. that reference a lot of tech companies looking into drone package delivery, and seems to me those drones would have to follow the FAA laws that this person has to.

Re:Ummm, what about the delivery drones? (3, Interesting)

craighansen (744648) | about 5 months ago | (#46734967)

Under the regulations (or lack of regulations) under which this guy is being shut down, drone package delivery would certainly be considered a commercial activity and ruled to be illegal. Amazon's drone program is clearly dependent upon a change of regulation to be viable.

I'm not at all clear how this is to be considered a commercial activity. It isn't commerce in the sense of money changing hands between the service provider and the beneficial recepient. It isn't commerce in the sense of operating for profit. The only basis I can imagine is that it's because it has a _purpose_, it's not just flying around for the f**k of it. Consequently, if it has a beneficial purpose, it has a reason to be allowed, and therefore it needs to be ruled illegal, so that it won't get in the way of having the FAA make whatever regulations they please. It's my tax dollars being wasted in the worst way.

Re:Ummm, what about the delivery drones? (1)

spiritplumber (1944222) | about 5 months ago | (#46735121)

I get around this by using wheelchair-sized "tanks" (they used to be tanks, now they have wheels to look less scary) to do my deliveries. Have since 2010.

Re:Ummm, what about the delivery drones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46735507)

I'm not at all clear how this is to be considered a commercial activity. It isn't commerce in the sense of money changing hands between the service provider and the beneficial recepient. It isn't commerce in the sense of operating for profit. The only basis I can imagine is that it's because it has a _purpose_, it's not just flying around for the f**k of it. Consequently, if it has a beneficial purpose, it has a reason to be allowed, and therefore it needs to be ruled illegal, so that it won't get in the way of having the FAA make whatever regulations they please. It's my tax dollars being wasted in the worst way.

If you read the guy's attorney's letter it becomes a bit clearer what the actual argument is about although IANAL. The FAA believes it has the ability to regulate all aircraft in the US, and divides them into classes which have different requirements: a commercial 777 flight full of passengers has lots, an experimental aircraft at a remote test area might have fewer, and flying an RC model around a field would probably qualify for an automatic exemption. The FAA is saying that these SAR drones do not qualify for the automatic "hobby and recreation" or "model" exemptions and so must meet the requirements of one of the commercial categories by process of elimination. The use of the word commercial is therefore nothing to do with profit-making versus non-profit-making.

Canada's allowed it for years. (2)

davecb (6526) | about 5 months ago | (#46734907)

Same rules as non-commercial, plus you must register and find out any local rules.

Shut him down why now? (1)

bjwest (14070) | about 5 months ago | (#46734915)

First off, if he's not a business it's not a flight for commercial purposes (going non-profit kinda made it a business, however, even though he's not charging). Second, since when is it against the law to do something for which there is no law or regulation against?

Re:Shut him down why now? (1)

spiritplumber (1944222) | about 5 months ago | (#46735127)

In countries that base themselves in English common law, since never. Looks like the FAA didn't get the memo. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E... [wikipedia.org]

Commercial drones are forbidden (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46735455)

And commercial flights of drones are forbidden in the US. The FAA is writing the regulations about what is and isn't going to be allowed, but until they finish that, any commercial flights of drone is in violation of the existing rules. I'm not sure why it's so hard for Libertarians to grasp that.

Protecting Raytheon & Friends (1)

topham (32406) | about 5 months ago | (#46735221)

This is an attempt by the FAA to protect Raytheon and friends. With the upsurge in UAV for military purposes aligning reasonably well with the ban on any commercial use it has allowed companies like Raytheon to establish themselves with hardware, as well as patents on the related technologies and purposes one would use remote controlled aircraft for. It's also why they don't actual have proper specifications to classify the aircraft, something which they so completely obviously should have done in the first place when the ban went into effect.

Should fly objects be regulated? Sure. But they've taken few steps to actually regulate them, it has just been a delaying tactic to prevent the upsurge in small companies from applying for, and receiving patents which could potentially be used to sue the likes of raytheon.

Odd, it would be quite the opposite in my country (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 months ago | (#46735223)

Over here, NOT aiding in an emergency situation is a felony, while at the same time it's nearly impossible to be prosecuted for helping (no matter how efficiently). As soon as whatever organization is in place signed you up as a helper there's nothing you could do short of looting that could possibly result in you getting into trouble.

Then again, I could not imagine our variant of the FAA acting like that. There's gotta be more to it than the official bullshit, that just doesn't make any kind of sense. My money is on someone wanting to make money with it and it's just so un-american that there's someone offering something for free that someone else tries to sell. Even if it's emergency aid.

If I were Gene Robinson... (1)

Bartles (1198017) | about 5 months ago | (#46735243)

...I'd tell the FAA to pound sand, and make them arrest me. I of course didn't RTFA, but if they are still forming regulations on this, it mean that they are still unregulated, which is the default condition.

The FAA has no authority over low flying drones (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 5 months ago | (#46735303)

By the law, their authority starts at something like 700 feet. Stay below that and they have no business saying anything one way or the other about it.

These drones pose no threat to conventional aircraft because they operate at closer to ten thousand feet... not under 700.

The FAA can do what they like above 700 feet. But below it they have no authority or purpose.

fp d1cK (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46735335)

aashole to others you can. When the has grouMnd to a OpenBSD. How many time I'm done here,

yep (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46735351)

Yep, the drone haters are winning.

FAA loses: Commercial Drones Are Legal (5, Informative)

drkim (1559875) | about 5 months ago | (#46735369)

The FAA has been overturned by a a federal judge on this, and non-commercial and commercial drone flying are now legal.
" NTSB Administrative Law Judge Patrick Geraghty ruled Thursday that the policy notices the FAA issued as a basis for the ban weren’t enforceable because they hadn’t been written as part of a formal rulemaking process. "

http://www.politico.com/story/... [politico.com]

Decision 3-6-14:
http://www.kramerlevin.com/fil... [kramerlevin.com]

Re:FAA loses: Commercial Drones Are Legal (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46735411)

Let me correct one misunderstanding, Commercial Drones ARE legal in the US and the FAA isn't disputing that. What they are saying is you NEED AN FAA LICENSE if you want to fly one. Most people are not willing to go through the flight training and cockpit hours to get the license just to fly a drone.

The FAA is introducing a drone license in 2015. So basically this entire discussion is based on incorrect information.

So say it's non-commercial. (1)

Max Threshold (540114) | about 5 months ago | (#46735473)

Say it's a personal quest for fame and glory.

Drones are still too dumb (2)

Animats (122034) | about 5 months ago | (#46735559)

The trouble with drones is that most of them don't have enough sensing to avoid other aircraft. Most don't have aviation transponders. Yet some of them are big enough that they're a hazard to other aircraft. Many of them can get 500 feet above ground level (AGL). (Aircraft other than helicopters are supposed to stay 500' AGL, 1000' AGL in congested areas. Around airports, airspace is controlled all the way to the ground.) This puts them in conflict with other aircraft. Here's a small Parrot drone at 1553 feet in the UK. [parrot.com] It's little, but if it was sucked into a jet engine, the engine would definitely be damaged and might fail. In 2013, someone was flying a drone near JFK in New York and the drone had a near miss with a jetliner. [popsci.com]

The Academy of Model Aeronautics used to have a 450' AGL rule, and the FAA has a clear rule about doing anything off the ground within 5 miles of an airport without coordination with the tower. That's enough to keep the little guys from interfering with aircraft.

The other side of this is that aircraft regulated by the FAA are considered not to be violating the property rights of the property overflown. Being overflown at 100' by an HDTV camera isn't a hazard to aviation, but property owners may object.

FAA Didn't get the Memo? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46735613)

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/commercial-drones-cleared-takeoff-judges-ruling/

This has been decided,and not in the FAA's favor.

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