FAA releases policy on UAS Internet videos for its inspectors

By Patrick C. Miller | April 16, 2015

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is advising its aviation safety inspectors on how to handle complaints about videos on the Internet in which unmanned aerial system (UAS) operators may be violating its regulations.

The agency has recently been criticized for the manner in which it handled two cases of UAS operators who either posted monetized videos of their flights on YouTube or advertised fees for their UAS video services on a personal website.

Last month, Maine resident Steven Girard received a voicemail message from the manager of an FAA Flight Standards District Office which said Girard’s website violated the agency’s regulations against the commercial use of UAS. Girard was advised to “pull down the website” or face “serious implications” in the form of fines and penalties.

The new FAA policy says, “Inspectors have no authority to direct or suggest that electronic media posted on the Internet must be removed.” It further adds, “Electronic media posted on a video Web site does not automatically constitute a commercial operation or commercial purpose, or other non-hobby or non-recreational use.”

The policy advises that FAA personnel “are expected to use critical thinking when addressing electronic media showing such activity.”

The FAA said the policy was in response to “an escalating number of videos or other electronic media posted to the Internet which depict aviation-related activities.” The agency said some videos showed operations that were contrary to or violated regulations or safe operating practices.

According to the policy, when an inspector receives a complaint and determines that there is a potential violation, “The FAA will use education to encourage voluntary compliance with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements when appropriate.” It outlines a protocol to be followed, which is to initially send the UAS operator an informational letter listing the appropriate UAS regulations.

If the UAS operator does not comply or is uncooperative or if the UAS operation resulted in dangerous activity in the national airspace (NAS), the FAA inspector is to continue the investigation. The policy says “…the FAA will use administrative action or legal enforcement to gain compliance if such action is necessary to maintain safety within the NAS.”


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