FAA to drone photographer: Cease and perhaps desist


By Dennis Rodkin

Larry Malvin, a North Shore real estate photographer who uses a remoted-controlled model-aircraft drone to photograph houses, on May 27 received an email from a Federal Aviation Administration official that, in essence, told him that what he’s doing is prohibited.

“There is no method at this time for a business or company to fly UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) in the NAS (national airspace system),” read the email from Mark Foisy, an aviation safety inspector in the FAA’s flight standards division and the unmanned aircraft specialist for the Great Lakes Region.

Mr. Malvin was featured in a recent Crain’s article.

Elizabeth Cory, a spokeswoman in the FAA’s Des Plaines office, said the email to Mr. Malvin was “informational” and carried no threat of penalties. “We’re concerned about public safety and the careless or reckless operation” of drones, Ms. Cory said. She declined to make the safety inspector available for an interview.

The email explained that AC 91-57, a federal guideline that allows use of drones by “modelers” or hobbyists, “specifically excludes its use by persons or companies for business purposes.”

Ms. Cory said the email did not imply threat of enforcement but was “meant to keep (Mr. Malvin) aware of safety concerns.” She declined to say how many other businesses may have received emails similar to the one Mr. Malvin received. Mr. Malvin is believed to be the first Chicago-area photographer to use drones in his business.

Peter Sachs, a Connecticut lawyer who has taken up the cause of remote-controlled model aircraft drones, claimed in a December 2013 article on his website, Drone Law Journal, that the FAA has no authority over their use. “There is not a single statute that is currently enforceable at the federal level,” Mr. Sachs said in an interview.

Mr. Malvin declined to comment other than to say, “Whatever the FAA regulates, I’m willing to follow.”


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