Attorney Challenges FAA Anti-Drone Directive With FF Safety Angle

An attorney well known for his advocacy of aerial drones filed three lawsuits last Friday against the FAA challenging a directive issued in June that extends the government’s ban on the commercial use of drones and limits the use of video technology that allows the operator to see what the drone sees. One of the suits uses a firefighter safety argument to make the point that the FAA’s plan is flawed.

Attorney Brendan Schulman is well known in legal and drone circles for taking on the FAA. Schulman filed the three suits on Friday in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The suits were filed on behalf of three groups of plaintiffs, each with a slightly different perspective on the FAAs drone-ban.

One suit was brought by the Academy of Model Aeronautics that alleges the FAA’s ban on commercial drone operations prohibits its 170,000 members from being compensated seemingly minor commercial activities like flying the drone as a demonstration flight or training new drone pilots.

A second suit was filed on behalf of the Drone Pilots Association, the UAS America Fund, Skypan International, FPV Manuals and Peter Sachs. Among other things, the suit alleges that Sachs, a volunteer firefighter, and other members of the Drone Pilots Association who are firefighters, are prohibited by the directive from using their drones on emergency incidents, thereby jeopardizing firefighter safety. The complaint points to circumstances in the past where a drone was used to identify dangers to emergency responders.

The third suit was filed on behalf of the Council on Governmental Relations, who claims that its 188 members have long-used model aircraft for scientific research without any FAA restrictions and the FAA’s interpretation threatens.

At the heart of each suit is a challenge to the FAA’s formal interpretation to its Special Rule for Model Aircraft., issued June 25, 2014.

Here is a copy: Petition Exhibit 1 FAA Directive

Here is the FAA’s policy notice on the rule, issued July 15, 2014: Petition Exhibit2 Policy Notice

The suits allege that the FAA’s Interpretation is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law, in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations, and without observance of procedure required by law” and asks that it be “set aside, vacated and/or reversed”.

Here is a copy of the complaint (petition) filed on behalf of Peter Sachs:  UASAmericaPetition

Here is more on the story.


About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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