The Republican contender in New York’s 18th congressional district alleges her opponent flouted Federal Aviation Administration regulations on drone use for commercial purposes.
Former Congresswoman Nan Hayworth is reiterating her call for Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney to step down from the FAA oversight committee.
“He sits on the committee that has jurisdiction over the, sub-committee and the committee that has jurisdiction over the FAA. So he certainly should have been aware that this is something that’s against current law,” says Hayworth. “And that shows a disregard. It’s like, well, yup, the law’s good for everybody us, but not for me, doesn’t apply to me. That’s an attitude that should concern all of us.”
Maloney commissioned a video of his Cold Spring wedding using a drone. The FAA bans drone flights for commercial purposes. Maloney spokeswoman Stephanie Formas, in an e-mailed statement, says, in part, quote, "On their wedding day Sean and Randy were focused on a ceremony twenty-two years in the making, not their wedding photographer's camera mounted on his remote control helicopter. Hardworking families fired Tea Party Congresswoman Nan Hayworth because they were tired of these political games and sent Sean to get results on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.” End quote.
The FAA released a statement saying, quote, “The FAA is looking into a report of an unmanned aircraft operation in Cold Spring, New York on June 21 to determine if there was any violation of federal regulations or airspace restrictions.” End quote.
“All of the regulations they purportedly attempt to enforce now are not actually binding regulations,” says Syed. “That’s part of the confusion here.”
That’s Nabiha Syed, an attorney with Levine, Sullivan, Koch and Schulz who also runs online learning platform Droneu.org, which explains the integration of drones into domestic airspace. She says the FAA has been tasked with integrating drones into domestic airspace by September 2015.
“This is the heart of the controversy when it comes to domestic drone regulations,” says Syed. “The FAA maintains that they have the authority to regulate the airspace and anything relating to the safety of airspace which, of course, would include drones because they’re up in the air.”
However, she says such regulation needs to go through a federally-mandated rulemaking process.
“The rules that the FAA is attempting to enforce now have not actually gone through that process,” Syed says. “But the FAA is kind of in a pinch, right. We have these technologies that are in the air, they are flying, there are real and clear dangers that do result from their use. I mean, no one wants one of things to fall down on anyone’s head, right? So the FAA, very understandably, wants to enforce the safety and ensure the safety of the domestic airspace, but the rules they have at their disposal to do so just haven’t gone through this formal process.”
Hayworth, unseated by Maloney in 2012, acknowledges that technology is outpacing regulation, but says current law is clear.
“Well, every innovation provides opportunity for doing new things, and better, doing the old things better,” Hayworth says. “So it is something that clearly needs to be addressed in the law, and it will be. But until it is, those of us who represent the public and have a public trust have to be aware of and adhere to the law as it currently applies. And this was a case of an arrogant disregard of the law.”
Syed points out that in 1981, the FAA issued an advisory with voluntary guidelines for people using model aircraft.
“I think it wasn’t clear in 1981 that those voluntary guidelines would be something that should apply to drones that are available on Amazon for $300 or $400, and that they’re ubiquitous, they’re everywhere, they’re inexpensive, and that there’s a lot of interest in using them,” says Syed. “And all of those factors mean that you might people who don’t know what they’re doing flying these things in crowded areas which presents a danger to the public, unlike the very organized and very skilled community of model aircraft operators who have been around for decades now who weren’t experimenting with these things in the public in quite the same way. And so that’s really, I think, the crux of why the FAA is in such a pickle because the communities who are using them are changing, the integration is happening quickly.”
And, she says, innovation is outpacing the lawmaking process. Separately, the FAA is appealing a case in which an administrative law judge sided with a commercial drone videographer FAA officials tried to fine.