Jail Time for Flying your Drone??


Our recent run in with the Park City Police department prompted a return to the oft blogged about topic of Drones and The Law. There are a number of well written articles available online written by various experts in their field regarding the use of small unmanned aerial vehicles and the FAA, Federal, and local laws. Below are some excerpts from one such article published on Forbes.com a few months ago written by Gregory S. McNeal, a professor specializing in law and public policy..

"We live in a nation of laws.  Those laws are passed by our elected representatives in Congress who oftentimes delegate to agencies like the National Park Service the authority to make rules implementing those laws.  There is a process that must be followed, and the National Park Service has not followed it.  The National Park Service is threatening park visitors with jail time and substantial fines, but the agency hasn’t written any rules to make it clear to park visitors what is prohibited....If the average park visitor wants to know what the National Park Service means when it comes to aircraft, isn’t the best definition the National Park Service’s definition?  That seems reasonable to me, but perhaps I’m wrong and the National Park Service can promulgate a definition of aircraft in their own rules, then ignore that definition by adopting another agency’s rules by reference.  I don’t think that’s the case, but for argument’s sake, let’s look at the FAA’s rules.  What exactly do they say about drones?  Well, according to the Pirker decision which interpreted the meaning of the term “aircraft” in FAA rules, “the FAA has distinguished model aircraft as a class excluded from the regulatory and statutory definitions.”  That is to say, drones and manned aircraft are two different things.  Thus under both the National Park Service’s rules on the books, and the FAA’s rules, drones are not aircraft..."

Be sure to read the whole article as it presents a very compelling argument. In aviation there is a well known saying, 'flying by the seat of your pants' It seems a lot of the 'officials' on both a federal and state level are 'flying by the seat of their pants' when it comes to enacting and enforcing drone regulations.

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  • Shawn R
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