My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: NTSB Judge Patrick Geraghty rules Drones for commercial purposes are now free - Forward thinking Black Sheep founder Raphael Pirker leading America towards an Almost Human Future

Friday, March 7, 2014

NTSB Judge Patrick Geraghty rules Drones for commercial purposes are now free - Forward thinking Black Sheep founder Raphael Pirker leading America towards an Almost Human Future

“There is no enforceable federal regulation concerning the operation of a model Airplane”

Attorney Brendan Schulman representing Team BlackSheep founder Raphael Pirker, in an interview with Wired Magazine on October 2013

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and all Drone enthusiasts in the USA just caught a legal break, clearing the way for Commercial Drone Projects like Amazon PrimeAir and competitors FedEx and UPS as noted in my blog article entitled “UPS and FedEx developing their Own Delivery Drones to compete with Amazon PrimeAir - Premium Rush Package Delivery Drones herald the coming of Google's Personal Androids that are Almost Human”.

Turns out that the six year ban on Drones imposed by the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) in 2007 is not an official regulation and neither is it clear-cut when it comes to Model Aircraft, which many Americans have been flying for years before this Drone Ban came into place as argued by Team BlackSheep founder Raphael Pirker in “Drones allowed to fly the US skies, for now”, published March 6, 2014 8:55 PM PST by Dara Kerr, CNET News.

This as the National Transportation Safety Board Judge Patrick Geraghty has ruled that the Ban by the FAA on Drones is not legally binding and in fact doesn't even apply to Model Airplanes as the FAA, to quote his case notes: “has not issued an enforceable Federal Acquisition Regulation regulatory rule governing model aircraft operation. Respondent's model aircraft operation was not subject to FAR regulation and enforcement”.

The fame Drone Maker had his ass hauled before the FAA after he was slapped with a US$10000 fine. This fine was issued as it was alledged that on October 17th 2011, Raphael Pirker aka “Trappy” who was contracted by Lewis Communications to do aerial photography and Video for their client the University of Virginia using his 4.5-pound Ritewing Zephyr-powered glider, endangered the lives of civilians at the event as described in “Remote aircraft pilot fights $10,000 FAA fine, could change Drone rules”, published October 9, 2013 04:39 pm By Chris Welch, The Verge.

Feeling trapped after years of plying his trade without incident, even doing some videos over New York, he naturally sought legal counsel and appealed the FAA Fine before the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board). His argument was that albeit he had no pilot's license, the FAA had no legal ground to stand on as it related to their ban in the first place!

FAA erred – Administrative Procedures Act blunder means Drones and Model Planes are equals

Apparently when the FAA had imposed their ban on Commercial Drones in 2007, they failed to hold any notice-and-comment rulemaking period to consult the public via City and Town Hall Meetings, instead action on its own out of concern for public safety - and possibly assuming the public sentiment against Drones due to their lack of education would make the ban universally acceptable.

This guideline is as laid out in the Administrative Procedures Act, which informs Public Agencies on how they are to proceed to implement Bans, Warning and administer other regulatory instruments to enforce and enact their roles as State entities as explained in “Drone Pilot Fights for Right to Profit in the Unmanned Skies”, published 10.09.136:30 AM BY DAVID KRAVETS, Wired.

Well, turns out that it may not be the case, as that's the procedure that the FAA failed to follow, thereby making the ban invalidated and inapplicable to Drones. Worse, the FAA Ban was broad-brushed over every flying aircraft, excepting Model Airplanes which Airplane hobbyists and enthusiasts have been flying for years without incident.

These products technically aren't Drones, as most of them are a RC (Radio Controlled) and aren’t packing the sophisticated Audio, photographic and video Electronics and guidance packages typical of most Drones. But due to the similarity in the design of Raphael “Trappy” Pirker’s Drone, in this case a 4.5-pound Ritewing Zephyr-powered glider, he could be seen as flying a Model Airplanes, save for the bristling Electronics package onboard to film the whole thing.

From his point of view, he was being punished and his actions were being criminalized under an improperly enforced ban as he sought to commercialize flying his “Model Aircraft”, as he ask quote: “How come the flight is less dangerous if you’re not receiving any compensation for it?”.
Thus based on the National Transportation Safety Board Judge Patrick Geraghty ruling, Drones for commercial purposes are now free to fly. The FAA may appeal and kick the case up the US Court of Appeals, but that’s unlikely.

America the Backward – Forward thinking Black Sheep leading America towards an Almost Human Future

This is an interesting case to watch and my eyes are now firmly fixed on it. It seems rather curious as a Jamaican to observe this happening in a Developed Country quibbling over Drones, yet we here in Jamaica already use them for Aerial Photography as noted in my Geezam blog article entitled “Skycam Jamaica Aerial Photography marks possible Revival of Package Delivery in the Jamaica Postal Service”.

Worse, the UAE (United Arab Emirates) has now begun using them to deliver Government documents as of February 2014 as stated in “Drone deliveries get off the ground in Dubai”, published February 10, 2014 8:38 PM PST by Dara Kerr, CNET News. So the US of A is waaaay behind on Drones for Commercial usage.

The FAA themselves have been backpedalling on their Ban, apparently realizing that it’s not legally binding, despite their concern for public safety. Since November 2013 they’ve been cautiously recommending unmanned Drones for thing like Hunter spotting, Research and even for farmers to Spray their crops, so long as it’s shoe-box sized as noted in “FAA cautiously agrees to some use of civilian Drones”, published November 7, 2013 7:13 PM PST by Dara Kerr, CNET News.

Plus they have a double standard, as they routinely approve Drones for Military and Police work, but snub Commercial usage of Drones. Thus Amazon PrimeAir may be flying sooner than five years as pointed out in entitled “Amazon plans to launch Amazon PrimeAir, their 30 minute Drone Package Delivery Service for Amazon Prime users - Playing Catch-up as Mailpak launches DealBug in Jamaica”.

Looks like a Forward thinking Black Sheep leading America towards an Almost Human (2013 -) Future!

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