Archive

Tag Archives: AUVSI

David Kravets | WIRED

On June 30, 1956, two airliners flying over the Grand Canyon collided. All 128 passengers and crew aboard the planes perished. It was the first U.S. air disaster with more than 100 fatalities. The accident made clear that the nation’s burgeoning air-travel industry needed better safety oversight. Citing the “tragic losses of human life,” President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation creating the Federal Aviation Administration in 1958.

Six decades and a zillion regulations later, the agency that supervises everything from air-worthiness to passenger gadget use has taken legal action for the first time against an on-ground pilot — an operator of a styrofoam, 4.5-pound Ritewing Zephyr-powered glider. The $10,000 levy (.pdf) invokes the same code section that governs the conduct of actual airline-passenger pilots, charging modelerRaphael Pirker with illegally operating a drone for commercial purposes and flying it “in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.”

Pirker is fighting the citation (.pdf) before the National Transportation Safety Board, challenging the FAA’s assertion that it has the power to supervise the use of unmanned drones. If Pirker prevails, the FAA’s 2007 ban on the commercial use of unmanned drones — a thriving overseas business — may be nullified.

Pirker’s legal battle throws a spotlight on a commercial drone scene in the United States operating in a grey area. The FAA has issued dozens of cease-and-desist letters to operators of commercial model aircraft, forcing some companies to shut down. Others, however, are performing their aerial filming and crop and real estate surveying businesses underground — or sometimes right in the open.

The agency is working on a set of regulations for the budding industry, but those rules won’t be unveiled until as early as 2015. Meanwhile, uncertainty reigns.

Pirker’s lawyer maintains that the 2007 ban on commercial drones is invalid because the FAA failed to hold public hearings before issuing the rule. “There is no enforceable federal regulation concerning the operation of a model airplane,” says the attorney, Brendan Schulman of New York.

Read More

Medea Benjamin

Outside the convention, protesters staged a mock drone attack.

When are we, as a nation, going to have a frank discussion about drones and remote-controlled killing? One might think that such a dialogue could take place when thousands of people come together, once a year, at the gathering of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). Wrong.

But AUVSI, the lobby group for the drone industry, brooked no dissent at its August 6-9 Las Vegas Convention. When I, as author of a new book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, tried to rent a room at the Convention Center to give a presentation on my book, AUVSI vetoed my request. When I tried to register as a journalist, I was told that I did not meet their criteria, but they refused to say what that criteria was. And after registering online as a normal participant and paying the $200 fee, when I appeared to get my badge I was yanked off the line, surrounded by police, and told I would be arrested if I set foot in the Convention Center during the duration of the gathering.

The same thing happened to Father Louie Vitale, an 80-year-old Franciscan priest who had registered and pre-paid for the conference. Father Vitale is known for his dignified, faith-driven stance against war, including drone killing. “There’s something from my Air Force days that fascinates me about drones, which is one of the reasons I wanted to get in to see the exhibits,” said Father Vitale, “but I also wanted to have conversations with some of the drone manufacturers and operators.” That was not to be. Unprovoked, Father Vitale found himself surrounded by Convention Security and Las Vegas police, who threatened him with arrest. Read More

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,435 other followers