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Tue, Feb 13, 2018

FAA Seems Unenthusiastic About Prosecuting Un-Licensed Drone Operators

Only One Has Ever Been Challenged, And He Got A Warning

The FAA has required a license to fly a drone commercially since 2016, but according to government documents, only one person has been caught and punished for flying his aircraft without a license.

The punishment wasn't much ... he got a warming.

According to the documents obtained by Market Watch through a FOIA request, that person was Jeffrey Slentz. He was capturing video of Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, MO for a rap music video. He flew his drone, a DJI Phantom 3, over the stadium before a Kansas City Royals game.

A police officer followed the drone as it returned to Slentz, who the pilot described as "pretty upset". But ultimately, he wound up calling the FBI and the FAA ... the latter of which issued a warning letter urging Slentz to get a Part 107 licenses. The report does not indicate whether he has done so.

An FAA spokesman said it is up to state and local law enforcement to crack down on rogue drone pilots. The FAA has issued guidance suggesting officers collect evidence of illegal drone flights and immediately notify the nearest FAA Regional Operation Center.

“While the FAA retains the responsibility for enforcing Part 107, we also recognize that state and local law enforcement agencies are often in the best position to deter, detect, immediately investigate, and, as appropriate, pursue enforcement actions to stop unauthorized or unsafe UAS operations,” the spokesman said in a statement.

Some who have gone ahead and spent the money to obtain a license wonder if it is worth it. Some who have done so say they have competitors who have not, and think the FAA should do more to enforce the rules it put in place.

Skylogic Research founder Colin Snow told Market Watch that the FAA wants to promote the commercial use of drones and not stifle the growth of the industry. An FAA spokesman said that the agency wants to educate, not punish, people who are using their drones in their businesses.

Slentz said when he was caught, his conversations with the FAA were "friendly and nonthreatening."

Still, anyone who intentionally does not comply with the FAA rules technically faces civil penalties in excess of $30,000. The FAA simply seems reluctant to impose those penalties, for reasons known only to the agency.

(Image from file)

FMI: Original report

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