FAA Backs Off on Drone Videos

The FAA has told its field inspectors that a video on the Internet is not enough¬† to prove that someone has violated its rules against commercial operation of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). In a notice¬†(PDF) to its enforcement personnel, the agency says that while video that appears to have been shot from a UAS might be a clue that illegal activity is going on, it can’t be the sole basis for enforcement action. “Electronic media posted on a video Web site does not automatically constitute a commercial operation or commercial purpose, or other non-hobby or non-recreational use,” the agency said in its order. “Inspectors have no authority to direct or suggest that electronic media posted on the Internet must be removed.”

The order comes as the latest indication of an overall softening of the agency’s hard line on UAS use, especially as at least some of the activities portrayed in the videos may be legal when the final rule on UAS use is issued. The agency issued its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for commercial use of UAS weighing less than 55 pounds earlier this year but it’s not expected to become effective for at least another year. The order doesn’t direct field staff to ignore videos, either and it also doesn’t include television and movie use of UAS footage.

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