If you were thinking that the FAA doesn’t really have a say in what you do with drones, you can kiss that thought goodbye. At the U.S. district court in Connecticut, a federal judge ruled against drone pilot Austin Haughwot and his father Bret in this matter. The Haughwots’ attorney argued that the Federal Aviation Administration has no authority to regulate drones, according to Ars Technica. The ruling now can be used as precedent, just in case others were wondering about the FAA’s reach.
It turns out this drone pilot attracted attention from the YouTube videos he posted depicting a drone he rigged with a handgun. The original video was posted last July, and in early November the FAA sent the Haughwots administrative subpoenas looking for a number of records, including accounting of any money they might have earned from the YouTube video. The elder Haughwot refused to provide the supoenaed documents, claiming that because he and his son hadn’t been accused of a crime or violation, they didn’t need to comply.
Soon afterwards, Haughwot posted a second video, this time showing a drone equipped with a flamethrower “roasting” a turkey suspended between trees. Again, the FAA requested they comply with the first subpoenas and again the Haughwots refused.
In February, the FAA took the Haughwots to federal court, seeking enforcement of the subpoena. Mario Cermae, the Haughwots’ attorney, argued that the FAA “can’t possibly rule over all things in the sky.”
“The statute did not contemplate their existence,” Cerame wrote in his brief. “Rather, the statute was directed at airplanes, helicopters, and blimps, and the resources on the ground to support them.”
Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer disagreed. He wrote, in part, “Even if a good faith argument might be made that the devices at issue here could fall outside the definitional scope of the term ‘aircraft,’ the FAA has a legitimate purpose at the least to acquire more information by means of investigation in order to assess in the first instance whether the devices are within the scope of its authority to regulate.”
So the Haughwots lost and must produce a lot of paperwork. Unless, of course, they appeal, which they must do within 30 days of the ruling.