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US FAA outlines restrictions for model aircraft in wake of reckless use

John Ribeiro | June 25, 2014
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Monday interpreted existing rules to prohibit hobbyists' model aircraft from flying within 5 miles (8 kilometers) of an airport without clearance from the airport or ground control.

An administrative law judge of the National Transportation Safety Board ruled that the classification of UAS does not appear in the Federal Aviation Regulations, raising questions whether the FAA has the authority to set rules for them.

Ruling in the case of a photographer Raphael Pirker, who was fined US$10,000 by the FAA in October 2011 for allegedly flying recklessly a powered glider aircraft, Judge Patrick G. Geraghty ruled in March that existing policy regarding the commercial use of drones, "cannot be considered as establishing a rule or enforceable regulation." The FAA has appealed the ruling before the full National Transportation Safety Board, which has the effect of staying the decision until the board rules.

The FAA is required by U.S. Congress to frame a "safe integration" plan for the commercial use of UAS by Sept. 30, 2015. The agency said in February that it expected to publish a proposed rule for small UAS of under about 55 pounds this year. "That proposed rule will likely include provisions for commercial operations," it said. Model aircraft are included under UAS in the 2012 Act.

 

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