FAA Seeks $10K Fine For Drone Recording of Tornado Disaster
Another drone operator is facing an FAA fine, this time for documenting the devastation in the wake of a tornado (video below).
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 terrible scene in Arkansas, where at least 14 people died over the past few days due to the tornados. One of the worst hit areas was Mayflower, Arkansas, located just 40 minutes away from the state capital of Little Rock, where over a dozen people died.
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.
Drone Journalism: Arkansas Tornado Damage Aerial Video 4-27-2014
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. The images proved that the small Arkansas town was unrecognizable compared to just hours before, with vehicles and large piles of lumber strewn across the highway and elsewhere.
Eminger’s drone measures approximately 18 inches wide with small propellers that are about eight inches long, he told the Gazette. He used it in the past to help a local TV station obtain footage of a hotel fire in Hot Springs, Arkansas, but could now face a $10,000 fine because of strict FAA guidelines.
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 [Unmanned Aircraft System].”
Is this type of drone activity dangerous or is this a case of the FAA overstepping?