FAA appeals judge's decision on commercial drones

Fearing a scenario of unmanned aircraft flying unchecked US skies, the Federal Aviation Administration lost no time in appealing a judge's ruling that the agency had no authority to regulate commercial drones.

The FAA's action comes from a case involving drone enthusiast Raphael Pirker, being fined $10,000 by the authority for flying his 56-inch foam glider to film promotional videos of the University of Virginia Medical Center.

According to the FAA Pirker's flight breached rules governing the commercial use of drones.

The aviation authority said less than 24 hours after losing its case, on Friday that it was appealing the decision by Patrick Geraghty, an administrative law judge with the National Transportation Safety Board.

"The agency is concerned that this decision could impact ... the safety of people and property on the ground," the FAA said in a statement.

Geraghty ruled that FAA regulations approved for manned aircraft did not apply to unmanned aircraft any more than they applied to paper airplanes or balsa wood planes.

Pirker's attorney, Brendan Schulman, hailed the decision as "a tremendously significant decision for model aircraft and commercial drone operators."

CNN quoted Schulman as saying, as a general matter, the decision found that the FAA's 2007 policy statement banning the commercial use of model aircraft was not enforceable.

The decision is being seen as temporarily clearing the way for commercial use of UAS, unmanned aerial systems, also known as UAVs or drone.

The FAA framed a rule in 2007, which banned the use of drones for commercial purposes, but according to commentators, the recent ruling invalidated that rule.

FAA officials had long taken the position that the agency regulated access to the national airspace, and therefore it had the power to bar drone flights, even when the drone weighed no more than a few pounds.

''There are no shades of gray in FAA regulations,'' the agency says on its website. ''Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft -manned or unmanned -in US airspace needs some level of FAA approval.''

FAA officials had been working for a decade on regulations to grant commercial drones access to the national airspace without endangering manned aircraft and the public.

However, progress had been slow and Congress had to step in with a legislation in 2012 directing the FAA to safely integrate drones of all sizes into US skies by September 2015. However, it was clear the agency would not be able to meet that deadline.