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FAA Anti-Commercial Drone Regulations Shot Down In Court, Drone Flyers Rejoice

By Anthony Thurston on March 7th 2014

For the last 6 years, it has technically been a risky endeavor to use drones to capture photos or video for commercial purposes. If you did so, you risked hefty FAA fines and possible legal trouble as well. But that is no more.


A federal NTSB judge shot down the FAA ban on commercial drones when he dismissed the FAA’s case against Raphael Pirker. Pirker’s was the first case of drone pilot flagged by the FAA for violating the ban on commercial drone use. Back in 2011, he was hit with a $10,000 fine by the FAA for using a drone while filming an ad for the University of Virginia’s Medial School.

The judge’s decision, for the time being, opens the doors for commercial use of drones in the US with no FAA approval needed. The loophole occurred because the FAA never went through the proper steps to actually make the ban legitimate. Things like public notices and other processes are required and the FAA did not go through these processes when banning the commercial use of drones.

[REWIND: Big Savings On Drones Through B&H]


That, of course, doesn’t mean the FAA can’t make a ban official by doing these things now. But until the FAA responds to this court ruling, by giving up and allowing use of drones or by going through the correct processes to ban commercial use, commercial use of drones in the US is now open.

Expect the cost of drones in the US to go up, since now business can purchase drones for commercial use, retailers will use the opportunity to squeeze more money out of us. But overall, I feel like this is a huge win for wedding videographers and photographers – many of whom used drones during the ban anyways.

What are your thoughts on this news? Are you going to run out and get a drone, or do you feel like this does not affect you much? Share your thoughts in a comment below to join the discussion.

[via Motherboard]

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Tanya Smith

    My husband is an air traffic controller, so I asked him about the issue. He said drones can interfere with air traffic, which is the only reason they don’t want a bunch of them flying around. Makes sense, but it seems like you should at least be able to get a permit if you want to use one. We’ll see what happens :)

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  2. Terry

    I believe the FAA is under a congressional mandate to open up and develop rules for commercial drone/UAV operation by the end of 2015. So this might not even get an appeal before those are done! That would be great!

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  3. Pye

    To be honest, this is actually a big deal for us. We have been considering using drones for a long time when filming. We have always stayed away just to be cautious. So this is awesome. I wonder if it is going to become a huge issue though when tons of people are flying drones everywhere, lol.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Yeah, I could see it becoming an issue in highly populated places like NYC and LA. Luckily at most wedding events you will likely be the only crew with a drone, so hopefully its not too much of an issue.

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