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  • House Committee Narrowly Approves Eleanor Holmes Norton's Deadly E-Cigarette Science Denialism

    February 11, 2016

    Following three government reports in the 1980s highlighting the low cabin air quality caused by cigarette smoking and the health risks of passive smoke, Congress banned smoking aboard airliners.

    This prohibition is currently codified at 49 U.S.C. § 41706, and refers to “smoke” and “smoking,” which are banned on domestic and international flights. A popular new alternative to smoking is the electronic cigarette. Unlike cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not combust tobacco and do not produce smoke. Instead, they heat a liquid that generates vapor containing nicotine and is absorbed by the user’s lungs.

    According to the latest scientific research, e-cigarettes are around...

  • 2016 Regulatory Schedule for the U.S. Department of Transportation

    January 7, 2016

    Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration’s two drone rulemakings got a lot of attention: their strange attempt to implement Congress’s airspace integration mandate and their unlawful drone registration mandate. CEI submitted comments in both (see here and here).

    With 2016 being the final year of Obama’s presidency, we can expect a flurry of rulemaking activity—some good, but mostly bad....

  • FAA Releases Mandatory Drone Registration Interim Final Rule

    December 15, 2015

    On December 16, the FAA will publish its interim final rule (IFR) on Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft in the Federal Register. The prepublication rule can be found here. IFRs take effect immediately upon publication (more on this below).

    Here is the FAA’s summary of major provisions to be included under 14 C.F.R. Part 48 (Table 1, p. 6):

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  • Problems with Mandatory Drone Registration

    November 23, 2015

    On Saturday, the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Registration Task Force issued its recommendations on a mandatory UAS registration proposal. The report is available here. On October 19, the task force was announced by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Federal Aviation Administrator (FAA) Michael Huerta. A Federal Register notice followed on October 22. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) filed ...

  • Government Submits TSA Body Scanner Final Rule Schedule to Court

    November 23, 2015

    On October 23, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered the Department of Homeland Security to produce a schedule for final rule publication on the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) use of body scanners in airports. This order was in response to a lawsuit filed in July 2015 by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI)—along with the National Center for Transgender Equality, The Rutherford Institute, and two CEI employees (former President Lawson Bader and me, Marc Scribner)—asking the court to compel the TSA to produce its final rule on body scanners. For years, the TSA had been flouting the federal...

  • Court Rules against Government in TSA Body Scanner Case

    October 23, 2015

    Earlier today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled against the government in CEI’s challenge to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) illegal body scanner policy. CEI, joined by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Rutherford Institute, filed a mandamus petition in July asking the court to compel the TSA to produce its final rule on body scanners within 90 days.

    When the TSA began deploying body scanners as the primary screening method back in 2009, it failed to conduct a notice-and-comment rulemaking as required by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). In 2010, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a lawsuit alleging, among other things, that the TSA was in violation of the APA. In July 2011, this same panel on the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of EPIC and ordered the TSA to “promptly” complete the required...

  • Is a Drone Registration Mandate Illegal?

    October 19, 2015

    Today, the Department of Transportation announced the creation of a task force to develop recommendations for a national drone registration mandate. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated that he wants the task force to develop their recommendations by mid-November, with the mandate coming into force sometime in mid-December. Secretary Foxx also said that the mandate will apply to all unmanned aircraft systems. Drone lawyer Jonathan Rupprecht has a post on the practical and legal issues of creating and enforcing a registration regime. I’d like to highlight two problems raised by Rupprecht.

    If Foxx is accurate, the Federal Aviation Administration will likely be in violation of two different federal laws...

  • Drone Policy Update: FAA Proposes $1.9m Fine, 3 More Bills Vetoed in California, and More

    October 6, 2015

    FAA PROPOSES RECORD FINE FOR UNAUTHORIZED UAS OPERATIONS: On October 6, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced it was proposing a $1.9 million civil penalty against SkyPan International, a Chicago-based aerial photography company. FAA alleges that SkyPan conducted 65 unauthorized commercial UAS flights over Chicago and New York City between 2012 and 2014.

    Of these, 43 are alleged to have taken place in New York’s Class B airspace. Class B airspace is reserved for the areas around high-traffic airports, and is subject to the most onerous rules among all airspace classes. Basically, flying in Class B airspace without direct authorization from air traffic control is a big no-no.

    The SkyPan case is by far the largest civil penalty proposed by FAA for unauthorized...

  • Drone Policy Update: California Bill Vetoed, New Model Aircraft Guidance, and More

    September 14, 2015

    CALIFORNIA UAS BILL VETOED: On September 9, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 142 that would have imposed trespass liability on unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operators who fly less than 350 feet above another’s private property. While aimed at preventing invasions of privacy, such a law would have not only greatly restricted UAS operations (the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) currently prohibits operators without special permission from flying more than 400 feet above ground level; more on this below), it would have subjected operators and the state to an enormous volume of litigation. The bill was strongly opposed by the UAS industry, hobbyists, press organizations, and others. Kudos to Gov. Brown. To...

  • Did North Dakota Just Authorize Pepper-Spraying Police Drones?

    August 27, 2015

    The Daily Beast’s Justin Glawe has written an article about a North Dakota law aimed at limiting law enforcement use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones. He claims that the law was watered down by police interests and corporate lobbyists, and that the weakened protections now authorize law enforcement’s use of non-lethal UAS-mounted weapons:

    With all the concern over the militarization of police in the past year, no one noticed that the state became the first in the union to allow police to equip drones with “less than lethal” weapons. House Bill 1328 wasn’t drafted that way, but then a lobbyist representing law enforcement—tight with a booming drone industry—got his hands on it.

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