As of right now it’s perfectly legal to operate a drone for commercial reasons. That’s according to a federal judge, in a ruling that notes the Federal Aviation Administration has not made any legally binding rules against the practice.
This flies in the face of the FAA, which previously stated that drones used for commercial reasons were illegal.
The ruling follows a lawsuit in which the FAA fined a drone operator $10,000 for using a drone to make a commercial for the University of Virginia. It was the FAA’s only such fine against a commercial drone operator. The operator and his lawyer fought the fine on the grounds that the FAA had yet to make an official regulation on model aircraft such as the drone used in this situation.
The federal judge with the National Transportation safety board sided with the plaintiff despite the FAA’s claim that the operator had been “careless and reckless” and did not qualify as a hobbyist.
The judge notes the FAA “has not issued an enforceable Federal Acquisition Regulation regulatory rule governing model aircraft operation; has historically exempted model aircraft from the statutory FAR definitions of ‘aircraft’ by relegating model aircraft operations to voluntary compliance with the guidance expressed in [the 2007 policy notice], Respondent’s model aircraft operation was not subject to FAR regulation and enforcement.”
The FAA has been dragging its feet on drone regulation. While the drone industry is clearly ready to launch, the FAA has yet to institute official regulations governing the use of commercial drones. In 2012, congress instructed the agency to write such rules by December 2015, but reports state that the FAA will not meet that deadline.
Perhaps this ruling will cause the FAA to cut some red tape and do their job a bit quicker. An entire industry is waiting to take flight.