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News Link • Drones

The Fight for Domestic News Drones

•, by Lucy Steigerwald
 The group specifically objected to the $10,000 fine currently hanging over photographer Raphael Pirker, who flew a drone for commercial purposes in defiance of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines in 2011.

Currently, "hobbyists" can fly drones or model aircraft below 400 feet, but most everyone else needs permission before they take flight. The FAA has yet to write out their rules for all drone integration into domestic airspace, though they are scheduled to next year, but news is fast, and the government is slow. And commercial and news media drones were banned in 2007, even though the media traditionally has more protections in their jobs than other for-profit outlets do.

A federal judge with the NTSB in March actually ruled that the FAA cannot enforce their ban because they don’t have legal authority over small aircraft. (And if they did, Judge Patrick Geraghty wrote that means "a flight in the air of a paper aircraft, or a toy balsa wood glider, could subject the operator to" the same regulations.) The FAA appealed, so that decision is stayed and the ban remains. But in the last week, in spite of the weird feelings so many people have about drones as dystopian tools of oppression and assassination, this clunky ban has provoked some backlash. The journalists who filed the brief on Tuesday argued that rigid restrictions on newsgathering fly in the face of the First Amendment. And it’s hard to blame them for thinking so.

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