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Hold the drone: FAA appeals court ruling on commercial use

Wait just one minute: we may not see drones from Facebook and Amazon quite as quickly as we expected. After a US judge decided that drones were legal in the skies of the nation on Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration has hit back with an appeal based on the grounds of public safety.

Using drones for commercial purposes has effectively been outlawed since 2007, when an FAA policy notice banned organizations from flying the unmanned robotic airships without a license (which is very difficult to get). This week’s ruling determined that the 2007 notice was not legally binding, and companies and individuals were free to get their drone projects off the ground.

Now the FAA has appealed the latest ruling, so the decision will ultimately be made by the US Court of Appeals in Washington DC. It’s a complicated process to follow, but we’ll try and do our best to keep you up to date, should you be planning a drone-based enterprise of your own.

“The FAA is appealing the decision of an NTSB Administrative Law Judge to the full National Transportation Safety Board, which has the effect of staying the decision until the Board rules,” stated the FAA. “The agency is concerned that this decision could impact the safe operation of the national airspace system and the safety of people and property on the ground.”

As we reported in November, the FAA is busy working on guidelines for the use of commercial drones, guidelines which are expected to be published by the end of 2014. Commercial use of the aircraft is then scheduled to be permitted sometime in 2015. Until then, the majority of money-making drone projects will have to stay on hold.

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