In the above video, a drone piloted by Austrian Raphael "Trappy" Pirker flew over, and filmed, the University of Virginia's medical school campus. Pirker sold the video to an advertising company, which prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to file a $10,000 complaint against him. Yesterday, a federal judge in the case Pirker v Huerta (Huerta is the administrator of the FAA) ruled that the flight was legal, as the FAA did not have any explicit legal authority to prohibit such commercial use of a hobbyist airplane.
This is big.
Commercial use of drones is a legal gray area. Model airplanes, radio controlled and flown within sight of the pilots, are legal, and have been for decades. In recent years, advances in video streaming technology, as well as reduced costs for aviation components, have enabled drones that can do far more than the model airplanes of the 20th century. One change in particular is that drones can now be piloted through first-person video, meaning the drone is neither out of sight nor within sight of pilot.
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