All Civilian Drone Flights Can Be Considered Illegal Now

November 18, 2014 | Rhett Jones

The National Transportation Safety Board has ruled (PDF doc) that all drone flights can be considered illegal. For drone users, Tuesday’s ruling by an appeals board will be very important announcement to pay attention to. The FAA claims that it will release clear regulations for drones by the end of the year, but for now, all flying model aircraft, drones, and remote controlled aircraft could be considered “reckless” just for flying.

The man involved in the case, Raphael “Trappy” Pirker, originally argued that a model aircraft wasn’t subject to FAA regulations and he won the case in front of a federal judge, but the appeals board disagreed, stating:

The definitions draw no distinction between whether a device is manned or unmanned. An aircraft is ‘any’ ‘device’ that is ‘used for flight.’ We acknowledge the definitions are as broad as they are clear, but they are clear nonetheless.

The definition of “reckless flight” is so broad that it could include frisbees and baseballs, notes Vice. It’s a charge that, in the case of drones at least, the FAA can use to “fine you $10,000 for flying one anywhere, for any purpose.”

In the meantime, no one is sure how likely the FAA is to prosecute anyone, and enthusiasts as well as the drone industry will be waiting nervously for the new regulations to be released. The federal agency has missed its deadline before, but there will certainly be more attention on the issue this time around.

(Photo: Rick Silva)