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Man who built gun, flamethrower drone must comply with FAA, judge says

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A federal judge in Connecticut has ruled against a young drone operator and his father. They will now have to turn over a slew of documents and materials as part of a Federal Aviation Administration investigation. The two men and their legal team argued that the FAA lacks authority to regulate drones, but the FAA clearly disagrees with this assessment. (arstechnica.com) さらに...

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ExCalbr
The videos in question, though, were made before the FAA had finalized drone regulations. They (the videos I referenced) should be exempt. The regulations should apply to any activities these people engage in after the regulations were put in place. Having said that, I find it unlikely they will retire from such activities.
ocj
ocj 1
The law is pretty clear that drones are aircraft (see 49 U.S. Code § 40102(a)(6) - “aircraft” means any contrivance invented, used, or designed to navigate, or fly in, the air). The FAA is alleging that they were violating 14 CFR § 91.13 "Careless or reckless operation".

On this case, I wouldn't want to bet against the FAA.
jbqwik
jbqwik 4
I can see where a remotely fired weapon on a flying platform would give law enforcement the heebie-jeebies; missiles, anyone? Whereas I am older and come from a more permissive age (I am sensitive to our personal freedom) I think they got this one right.
joelwiley
After SCOTUS's Citizens United ruloning on corporations being people, maybe the case could be made for drone's 2nd ammendment rights?
Kairho
Does anyone definitively know the government's position on civilian aircraft (drones, Cessna 150s, 737s) equipped with operable armaments?
btweston
btweston 7
Some interesting legal question here, to be sure. But putting a flame thrower in a drone is really stupid and certainly presents a danger to the public.
joelwiley
Do Connecticut woods burn? Burning their own woods down might marginally be considered not-public, but crossing the property line it clearly becomes a public danger.
bbabis
bbabis 2
Stupid is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe the U.S. Forest Service should be the ones looking into this. I can see this as a great way to set back fires in order to manage wildfires without the obvious danger of putting firefighters in the path of the fire.
bovineone
I'm pretty sure I read that they were only operating these drones on their own private property, so the general public was never in direct danger.
ExCalbr
The Bastrop fires from a few years ago devastated many properties and were a result of a farmer doing farming work on his own property. I'm sure there are countless other examples. This one, at least, is well documented and in the news prominently.
gdewis
It sounds like the FAA is trying to determine if the activity is commercial in nature. If it is commercial in nature, then it would be subject to much more stringent conditions than if it's non-commercial.
jrollf
jrollf 1
I think you got out right! Per congressional mandate the FAA can't regulate hobbyist RC aircraft, but as soon as it's is a'commercial' venture then they can regulate any and all aircraft.
ocj
ocj 2
From http://www.faa.gov/airports/special_programs/uas_airports/model_airplane_faqs/

"Model aircraft are permitted users of the National Airspace System (NAS) just like any existing manned aircraft flight. Congress confirmed in Public Law 112-95, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, that model aircraft are aircraft consistent with statutory definition of an aircraft as set forth in Title 49 of U.S.C. § 40102(a) (6). This means that model aircraft operators can utilize the NAS as long the operator of the model aircraft meets all applicable statutes and regulations and operates the model aircraft in a safe manner."

And from https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-112publ95/pdf/PLAW-112publ95.pdf (UAV stuff starts on page 62) it's fairly clear that the FAA has the final say, even on hobby aircraft, on safety matters.
jrollf
jrollf 1
Thanks for the clarification. Still sounds like the FAA is going after proof of 'commercial' activities, possibly to make penalties worse?
Gearrhead43
It would not take long for someone with more know-how to affix and camera gun sight on a armed drone... that would become a threat to Small aircraft and helos. plus who says they need to have guns.. packing a drone with home made high explosives and ramming an aircraft would certainly be easier than attempting to shoot an aircraft down. The FAA knows this and is using this father and Son as an example to further along regulations to prevent citizens from arming up drones.... Question... Are the right to own armed drones protected under the rights of the 2nd Amendment?
Bernie20910
Arming a drone and having that armed drone actually be effective are two different things. I won't go into details on a public forum but don't confuse movie and TV explosions with what happens in real life with real explosives. They don't work that way. Also, anything effective as an offensive weapon on a drone is going to be, by necessity, pretty heavy. Drones do not have infinite lift capacity. Even adding just a lightweight camera to them significantly reduces their range and performance envelope. An effective offensive weapon is going to weigh a lot more. Ammunition is heavy. Weapon components are heavy.
nasdisco
Chris B 2
The Adverse potential is huge. Can you imagine the reaction if a machine gun toting Drone appears on Washington Mall for example, during a Presidential inauguration?
SunkenLunkenCFI
So, now we prosecute people for possible future crimes?
Kairho
Restricted Zones. Prohibited Zones. Been doing it for a while if you consider having to sometimes go many miles out of a direct route, thereby the fuel penalty.
TorontoJeff
It appears to me that the argument shouldn't be wether the FAA has the right to regulate drones and hence these people. The argument is, should the FAA be allowed to demand records if no violation is alleged? Why would they request financial records of YouTube videos in the name of safety? They are clearly trying to coward them into submission, and have failed.
ocj
ocj 1
Did you read the Judges order? (I looked for a copy of the original subpoena but that wasn't readily searchable). The FAA is alleging that the Houghwouts where violating 14 CFR § 91.13.

And far from failing, the FAA is getting what it wanted - testimony and evidence from the Houghwouts.

http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2997011-Houghwout-Order.html
Kairho
Records are demanded and subpoenas are issued every day for various reasons without the requestees being charged or even alleged to be in violation of something or other. Not only by the FAA. A business can have employment records subpoenaed, for example, without being alleged of a crime if those records are deemed necessary for some third party investigation.
Blackjack15
2 issues here. I do understand the need for more information on what was purchased but this cam about way before the FAA finalized its regulations on such things.

I find it very interesting that the article referenced the FAA's need to find out how much money was made from the video...

Honestly? I would not have complied either.

Unfortunately, people push everything to their limits and so regulations need to be made.
joelwiley
Respondents said (it is a bit wordy, but legal 'briefs' tend in that direction:
https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2854855-15-Main.html#document/p16/a300956

The Judge's reply in granting petition for subpoena:
https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2997011-Houghwout-Order.html#document/p6/a309170
JimmyHoneycutt
Why can't we just all get along with each other!
allanrbowman
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lID1VGQ9Da0 Drone with machine gun. Perfect for Americans protecting their 2nd amendment rights.
bbabis
bbabis 3
Remember Allen, we have no rights we aren't willing to fight for. The second amendment was put in to protect all rights. Without it, they could be taken away on a whim. When the people fear the government you have tyranny. When the government fears the people you have liberty.
SpaceRanger
The 2nd Amendment was added to the Constitution, not to protect all rights, but to protect slavery. See here:
http://bipartisanreport.com/2016/07/10/history-101-the-2nd-amendment-exists-because-founding-fathers-wanted-to-protect-slavery/
bbabis
bbabis 1
Very whimsical Michael. And not very bipartisan.

Pearson McKinney
Pearson McKinney is a life-long outspoken liberal political activist, freelance writer, and Managing Editor of Bipartisan Report and Americans Against The Tea Party.
SpaceRanger
Did you even bother to read the article?
21voyageur
ALERT ! ! ! The people behind this folly have far too much idle time on their hands. AND THEY BREED AND VOTE ! ! ! What is the purpose behind this? ? ?
bbabis
bbabis 2
I believe they said the same about the Wright brothers.
21voyageur
Yes but flames and ammo were not, I believe, part of their vision
bbabis
bbabis 1
Their first sale was to the U.S. Army. Now envision an A-10 firing pass at night.
brbkolb
The FAA has no enforcement authority whatsoever over a non-airmen private citizen. This judge is violating this person's constitutional rights. Big brother is completely out of control at this point.
SpaceRanger
The FAA's statutory and regulatory authority extends over the entirety of the national airspace from the ground up, including flight management and efficiency, air traffic control, aviation safety, navigational facilities, and the regulation of aircraft noise at its source, including the operation of unmanned aircraft systems. This includes enforcement authority over anyone violating said statutes and/or regulations.
bbabis
bbabis 2
That is what the FAA would like you to believe. While our national airspace does go to the surface the FAA regulates from 500' and up except around airports and various other areas since 9/11.
ocj
ocj 1
You're correct that the FAA gets to decide, because Congress _gave them the authority_. See 49 U.S.C. § 40103(b)(1):

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/40103

If you read closely, the FAA has the unconditional authority to regulate the navigable airspace. Unfortunately, Congress did not precisely define navigable airpsace. There have been a mishmash of court cases (even a Supreme Court cas) and other laws and regulations that make the situation not very clear but

Your 500' figure likely comes from 14 CFR § 91.119(c) which is a FAA regulation.

The ability of the FAA to require aircaft to fly above certain altitudes directly implies the ability of the FAA to require aircraft to NOT fly above certain altitudes.
RussellNelson
I wish we had more laws. People in America have far too much freedom. We should make sure that everything is regulated.
ocj
ocj 1
See 49 U.S. Code § 40102(a)(8)(A) - by operating the UAV they became airmen.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/91.15

It even applies to non-pilot ground crew.
bbabis
bbabis -2
Social molders will never learn. Trying to regulate objects to keep people within the law is not the answer. The basic law of do no harm to others is all that is needed. The capability of doing harm will always be there. The same drone that could hover over beachgoers and apply spray on sunscreen could hover over municipal water supplies and apply biological weapons. In a free society you can do either. Should we give up freedom when it is evil intent that is the problem? With the broken families, Godless school systems, coddled criminals, violent media, and anti-authority encouragement that our liberal government promotes, it is no wonder that evil overwhelms what's good. We can either wake up and start to turn our generations around or slide on into the abyss. The Haughwout family seems to be a good family unit with love, support, and no criminal history so in today's world I guess it would only make sense for the government to go after them.
locomoco
And, but wait, also too -- chemtrails!
SpaceRanger
It makes a great deal of sense for the government to go after stupid people who fail to use good sense and endanger the public in the exercise of their "rights."
bbabis
bbabis 0
Have the Haughwouts endangered the public in any way except by what you think could happen? Should the government also go after "stupid" people who exercise their right to buy 640hp mustangs to have fun on the roads? The answer to both questions is the same. Sometimes I too think it would be nice, but then thank God that it is not against the law to be stupid.
rmchambers
And there you have it. The difference between the nanny-state lovers who want the government to provide perfect safety for all so that nobody has any question about whether something is legal or not - versus the self responsibility freedom folk who say what you do on your own property is up to you, it's when your activities interfere with others that you run into problems.

If this guy was shooting on his own property AND had a backstop that would preclude any ammunition going beyond it then what he was doing was safe. As for the turkey roasting drone, that didn't look that impressive, I bet the meat was raw on the inside and tasted of kerosene on the outside. How likely was it to burn down the entire forest? It looked like when that video was taken everything was green (unlike now) so chances are highly likely that it wouldn't have. Who's to say if he had a fire extinguisher on hand ? he might have.

The FAA just doesn't like being told to get bent and they are expending serious amounts of your and my tax dollars pursing this non-event. If anything should get people mad it's that they are wasting time and energy on this rather than pushing to get 3rd class medical reform operational NOW not in a year.. that would be a much better use of my money.
Kairho
Perhaps this incident was done safely but it's quite possible there could be others who would not be as safe. The FAA does have overall responsibility and they have a duty to investigate to determine not only to see if these folks violated a rule but also to determine if additional, general case or specific rule making is necessary to protect the public in the future. Such rules, if created, may or may not allow exceptions for private property rights. Better to snuff the campfire now than to risk a firestorm.
RussellNelson
Exactly, Kairho. Nobody should be free to simply DO things or INVENT things. The patent system is exactly backwards. Instead of it existing to protect inventions, it should be there to stop inventions. Basically, if you want to invent something, like slapping two things together to create something neither thing could do on its own, you should have to apply for a patent on it FIRST. And if the USPTO denies your patent, then you don't get to invent it.

Because Poe's law.
bbabis
bbabis 1
You reinforced the point that it is a people problem and not a problem of the object. It is not just quite possible but it is certain that their are others who are not safe in all matters of aviation. Your logic says we should snuff out aviation now rather than risk the firestorms in the future?
Kairho
You are overextending the premise. The object is to minimize overall risks; we couldn't afford to eliminate all. Plus, we already DO have extensive safety regulations for aviation which have greatly lowered the rate of accident and injury. Same thing for road vehicles and there still are over 25,000 deaths a year in the US alone. Similarly, and as an example, with respect to the Second Amendment, the public is not allowed to even own certain types of arms. [Note to self: research flamethrower ownership reg] It's almost always a people problem; the objective is to find the best way(s) to solve it, by education, regulation, or other measures.

rmchambers was quite right when asserting, "it's when your activities interfere with others that you run into problems."
rmchambers
Exactly, and if the FAA has a problem with it let them charge them with something and go through the legal process. They are fishing at the moment and the judge basically said "go for it, screw your 5th amendment" They haven't even been charged with a crime but are being asked to provide incriminating information. Doesn't sound like America really.

If they want to burn turkeys and shoot stuff on their own property if they are doing it safely and I've no reason or knowledge to say that they weren't then more power to them. It looked like the live in the middle of the woods. I believe the dad is a college professor so he's not a total idiot.

the local cops and the state police tried very hard to pin something on these people but there are no laws in the books to prohibit it so they most likely went crying to the FAA and said "you gotta do something, think of the children" and the FAA said "what's youtube?"

It's going to be interesting to see how things proceed from here. I hope he made plenty of money from the youtube monetizing of the video to pay what are sure to be gargantuan legal bills. You know the FAA will think nothing of pouring tons of money into legal counsel to prosecute them.

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