A Federal appeals court in Washington, DC, has dismissed a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by a search-and-rescue group in Texas that uses drones in its work, but both sides in the case are declaring victory.
Texas EquuSearch had tried to overturn an email from the FAA ordering the group to stop operating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones, in its search-and-rescue operations, the AP reports.
The three-judge panel said it could not review the case because the warning notice the FAA sent to did not represent the agency’s final policy on drone use, “nor did it give rise to any legal consequences.” The FAA is expected to finalize its policy on piloting drones for non-recreational use next year. The policy could affect photographers who use drones to carry cameras on assignment.
The court’s ruling fails to clarify what authority the FAA has currently to regulate the use of drones. In March, a federal administrative court judge overturned a $10,000 fine the FAA had imposed on photographer Raphael Pirker for using a drone to shoot a video for the University of Virginia, because the FAA still has no regulations on the books regarding the use of drones.
Brendan Schulman, the lawyer for Texas EquuSearch, told the site Motherboard that the appeals court ruling last week “achieves the desired result of clarifying that Texas EquuSearch is not legally required to halt these humanitarian operations.” Texas EquuSearch has resumed piloting drones, AP reports.
In a statement, the FAA said, “The court’s decision in favor of the FAA regarding the Texas EquuSearch matter has no bearing on the FAA’s authority to regulate” unmanned aircraft vehicles. The FAA also said it reviews the use of drones “that are not for hobby or recreation on a case-by-case basis.”
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