UAS: Firm Legal Footing…Or Not?

On July 4, a Tennessee businessman used his UAS/drone to capture some beautiful images of the fireworks show in downtown Nashville.  Apparently, his purpose was to promote a new business venture he is launching in October.

Robert Hartline, according to posts on Facebook, said he “was on firm legal footing for the activity.”  The report suggests that Mr. Hartline may believe that “the FAA regulates altitude only for non-commercial drones.”

If Mr. Hartline is receiving legal advice as a basis for his statements or beliefs, we suggest he find himself a new lawyer.  According to his own statement, at least the one attributed to him, the purpose of recording the fireworks was to promote a new business venture.  To us at least, that sounds an awful lot like a business or commercial use of a UAS. Assuming it is, altitude has nothing to do with whether it’s permitted.  The FAA, whether you agree with it or not, has, absent a Section 333 approval and exemption, prohibited all such uses until a regulatory scheme is enacted.  We doubt Mr. Hartline had an exemption from the FAA to operate his UAS and, while the images we have seen of the fireworks show are pretty cool, the legal advice he got (if he got any) wasn’t.

The FAA has continued its campaign to educate the public regarding what you can and can’t do with UASs, (mostly can’t), with its recently issued “interpretive rulemaking” involving model aircraft.  We question however, how many people like Mr. Hartline read the Federal Register or the Federal Aviation Regulations.

In today’s world, airplanes, as defined by the FAA, come in a box and can be bought in the mall.  In fact, we walked into a Verizon store a day or two ago and they sell the Parrot quadcopter, presumably because they want you to buy a smartphone or tablet so you can download the Parrot App which allows you to fly it.

If you find yourself needing an aviation lawyer Mr. Hartline, feel free to call us.

(Originally posted July 10, 2014)

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