|April 8, 2014|
|On April 4 NAAA filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the case of Huerta v. Pirker, the recent matter in which an NTSB administrative law judge ruled that the FAA does not have the authority to regulate UAVs. NAAA prepared this brief because this case serves of substantial interest to NAAA’s members given the safety hazards UAVs pose in the low-level airspace in which NAAA members operate.
As reported March 14 in the NAAA eNewsletter, the case is that of Raphael Pirker, who was fined $10,000 for flying his remote controlled aircraft as high as 1,500 feet to film promotional videos for the University of Virginia Medical Center. The FAA says Pirker’s flights ran afoul of FAA rules prohibiting the commercial use of UAVs. NTSB administrative law judge Patrick Geraghty ruled that the agency does not have the authority to impose a blanket ban on UAVs nationwide and overturned Pirker’s fine. The FAA appeal stays the judge’s ruling until the full National Transportation Safety Board issues a ruling in the case.
NAAA’s brief supports the FAA’s federal mandate to regulate aviation safety, and states that the judge erred in his issuance of a summary judgment on the case. NAAA argues that even if the aircraft was a “model aircraft,” as the judge suggests, that does not exempt the aircraft from regulation. Mr. Pirker’s aircraft was clearly operating within navigable airspace (defined as 500 feet AGL and above over populated areas), presenting a safety hazard. NAAA also argues that federal law gives the U.S. government sole jurisdiction over U.S. airspace, giving the FAA the authority to issue the fine. Finally, NAAA argues that Mr. Pirker was not operating within the bounds of the advisory circular (AC 91-57) that provides safety guidelines for model aircraft, which is another reason Mr. Pirker is subject to the fine issued by the FAA.
NAAA’s full brief can be read here.