As you all probably know by now, the US Attorney’s office has decided there will be no criminal charges against the pilot of the Phantom UAS which crash landed on the White House grounds [Link]. The same report indicates the FAA is still reviewing the matter to determine if they will take any civil enforcement action, i.e. monetary penalty, against the pilot.
Plane-ly Spoken is disappointed that criminal charges are being declined and will be even more disappointed if the FAA declines to impose a monetary penalty. The value of any deterrence to people out there who just don’t seem to care about the fact that they’re operating an aircraft in the NAS should not be underestimated. The FAA already made a mistake by letting Mr. Pirker off with a $1,025.00 settlement instead of enforcing the $10,000 fine they had imposed, especially after the decision by the NTSB affirming the validity of the FAA’s Regulation framework. This mistake should not be compounded by letting Mr. Usman off simply because his lawyer says it was “unintentional” and “inadvertent.” In any event, if it was “inadvertent,” flying a UAS out the window of your apartment in a crowded city center strikes us a textbook example of both “careless” and “reckless” behavior.
The lack of criminal prosecution sends the wrong message. The failure to impose a significant monetary penalty simply emphasizes that message.
On February 15, 2015, the FAA issued its NPRM for small UAS. These Proposed Rules have set the bar pretty low for entry into the world of commercial UAS operation. While this will certainly have the effect of encouraging growth in the area, only through an aggressive enforcement policy will the FAA insure that potentially irresponsible operators are brought into line.
The stakes are too high to do anything other than have an aggressive enforcement posture. FAA . . . . what say you?
(Originally posted March 23, 2015)