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...
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...
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...
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....
August 18, 2015
This past Saturday, hundreds of flights were delayed or canceled due to an air traffic control software glitch in the Washington, D.C. area. Naturally, #flypocalypse began trending on Twitter. Initially, the Federal Aviation Administration denied reports that their brand-new En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) system was responsible. Yesterday, FAA officials admitted ERAM was the culprit.
ERAM is a critical component of the FAA’s NextGen air traffic control modernization program. In theory, it offers greatly...
July 16, 2015
Yesterday, July 15, 2015, CEI filed a petition for writ of mandamus with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Our suit requests the court enforce its July 15, 2011, decision that found the TSA’s deployment of body scanners in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. The 2011 court ordered the TSA to “promptly” open a rulemaking proceeding and produce a final rule. Yesterday was the four-year anniversary of the court order and we still do not have a final rule to evaluate and potentially challenge. In fact, given that TSA has been rolling out body scanners since 2007, they have been violating the APA for eight years.
Other than CEI, petitioners are the National Center for Transgender Equality, The...
May 11, 2015
The Tax Foundation today released a new report, “Improving Airport Funding to Meet the Needs of Passengers.” Authored by Tax Foundation economist Alan Cole, the report notes that airport funding and financing in the U.S. is skewed against the users-pay principle and that the passenger facility charge (PFC) represents a welcome alternative to federal airport cross-subsidization schemes.
The PFC is a local user charge that airports can use to fund or finance a narrow class of improvements, as permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration. The PFC has been capped at a maximum of $4.50 per enplanement since 2000. Inflation has eroded that buying power by about half. CEI, along with airports and other aviation industry stakeholders, supports increasing the cap to $8.50 and then...
May 4, 2015
We saw two announcements on air traffic control modernization last week. The first was that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had finally completed its En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) deployment, a critical component of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) update of National Airspace System (NAS) management.
ERAM greatly improves flight tracking, communications, and controller displays by harnessing new technologies that have been developed in the last several decades. This is all well and good, but ERAM rollout was supposed to have been completed by 2010. Five years late and several hundred million dollars over budget, it is a bit...
April 24, 2015
Today, I submitted comments to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on behalf of CEI on its notice of proposed rulemaking for small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) certification and operations. We make three main points.
First, we question why the FAA is using its case-by-case exemption authority as the basis for this rulemaking, as opposed to the actual rulemaking section of the same law that Congress passed in 2012. This was the last FAA reauthorization and Congress included a subtitle on unmanned...
March 26, 2015
I saw some unfortunate news today: Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform sent a letter to Congress opposing a possible increase in the cap of the airport Passenger Facility Charge (PFC). ATR is often an ally in CEI’s libertarian battles, but here they are both wrong on the facts and inadvertently supporting a tax-and-spend federal regime that the PFC and other facility user charges can help counter.
Before I get to why ATR is completely wrong on federalist and free-market grounds in opposing a PFC cap increase, let’s be clear about what a PFC is, why it exists as it does, and what Congress may (or may not) do with the cap.
First, the PFC is a local user charge. Congress authorized its creation in 1990 and it allows airports to charge per-passenger enplanement fees. The revenue raised can...