Team BlackSheep Response to NTSB Commercial Drone Decision


HONG KONG, Mar. 11, 2014 – Team BlackSheep is pleased with the dismissal of proposed FAA fines directed at its lead pilot, Raphael “Trappy” Pirker, announced on March 6th, 2014. The civil penalty, proposed in connection with Mr. Pirker’s operation of a videography drone at the University of Virginia in October 2011, was dismissed on the ground that at the time, “there was no enforceable FAA rule or FAR Regulation applicable to model aircraft or for classifying model aircraft as [unmanned aircraft systems].”

“I hope that the March 6 decision by the NTSB administrative law judge will create a path forward for beneficial use of civilian drones in the United States, after years of regulatory delay,” said Mr. Pirker. “I also anticipate that it will prompt an international discussion about the appropriate level of regulation for small, lightweight airborne robots that bear almost no resemblance to the passenger aircraft that aviation agencies were historically established to regulate over 60 years ago.”

Team BlackSheep takes safety very seriously and does not view the decision as a license to use drones in an irresponsible manner. Many of the Team’s aerial videos demonstrate dramatic flying styles using equipment that has been rigorously tested, flown by drone pilots with proven experience. These operations involve safety measures and operational protocols that are not visible in the final production videos. Mr. Pirker has 18 years of experience piloting radio-control drones, including test flights in extreme weather conditions, and the Team boasts a perfect zero-injury safety record. Team BlackSheep invests considerable amounts of its revenue into research and development to make its civilian drones safe and reliable. The Team also works with community-based organizations in various countries to help implement or improve voluntary safety guidelines for model aircraft (drone) operators. In addition, they advise customers and all drone operators not to undertake advanced drone photography missions until they have established complete confidence in their equipment and skills.

Mr. Pirker was represented by Brendan Schulman, head of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems practice at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP.

“We understand that the FAA intends to appeal the decision. We are disappointed that the agency feels that continued litigation is the appropriate path forward for this emerging industry,” said Mr. Schulman. “However, Mr. Pirker will continue to defend against this unprecedented attempt to impose a penalty that has no basis in any law or regulation, and the nearly decade-long commercial drone ‘ban’ that sends the wrong message to high-tech innovators and entrepreneurs.”

About Team BlackSheep:

Team BlackSheep currently sells drones to more than 79 countries worldwide, including the United States, for aerial videography, agricultural use, facilities inspection and the recreational hobby community. For more information, please visit:


Worldwide: Raphael Pirker, [email protected]

United States / Legal matters:

Brendan Schulman, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP,

(212) 715-9247 [email protected]

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Patrick Egan
Editor in Field, sUAS News Americas Desk | Patrick Egan is the editor of the Americas Desk at sUAS News and host and Executive Producer of the sUAS News Podcast Series, Drone TV and the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition. Experience in the field includes assignments with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Battle Lab investigating solutions on future warfare research projects. Instructor for LTA (Lighter Than Air) ISR systems deployment teams for an OSD, U.S. Special Operations Command, Special Surveillance Project. Built and operated commercial RPA prior to 2007 FAA policy clarification. On the airspace integration side, he serves as director of special programs for the RCAPA (Remote Control Aerial Photography Association).