F.A.A. Has Power to Levy Fines on Commercial Drone Users

The government has the power to hold drone operators accountable when they operate the remote-control aircraft recklessly, the National Transportation Safety Board said on Tuesday. The safety agency, which hears appeals of Federal Aviation Administration enforcement actions, ruled that small drones are a type of aircraft and fall under existing F.A.A. rules. The F.A.A. had fined an aerial photographer, Raphael Pirker, $10,000 for operating a drone recklessly in 2011. Mr. Pirker appealed, and an administrative law judge with the safety board sided with him in March, saying the F.A.A. had not issued any regulations for drones. But that ruling was appealed to the whole safety board, which said an aircraft was “any device used for flight.” It sent the case back to the judge. “It’s a huge win for the F.A.A., and signals it’s not going to be the Wild West for drones,” said Kenneth Quinn, a former F.A.A. general counsel.

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