US: The Federal Aviation Administration, already facing criticism from private drone operators, has launched an investigation into drone use in the aftermath of the devastating tornadoes that swept across the southeastern United States.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Tuesday that the FAA has initiated a probe into the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to gather aerial footage of the devastation in Arkansas, where at least 14 people died over the past few days due to the tornados.
Storm chaser and videographer Brian Eminger sought to help the public understand just how bad the disaster was by sending a drone equipped with a video camera over Mayflower just moments after the storms had passed. A short video he posted on YouTube, which attracted nearly two million views within just 48 hours, showed emergency crews sifting through rubble where homes and buildings once stood.
If Eminger is nervous about being on the hook for $10,000, though, a March court ruling could provide some relief. The agency previously tried to levy a fine against Raphael Pirker, a videographer whose company 'Team Black Sheep' uses drones to capture unique footage. Pirker convinced Judge Patrick G. Geraghty that “there was no enforceable FAA rule or FAR Regulation, applicable to model aircraft or for classifying model aircraft as an UAS.”
The FAA appealed the decision, citing air safety and security. The spokeswoman did not provide any details on when the agency could seek legal action against Eminger.