Tags: drones | faa | texas | unmanned

Texas Company Challenging FAA's Drone Restriction Order

Sunday, 06 Apr 2014 10:44 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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A Texas company that has been using drones to search for missing people is fighting a Federal Aviation Administration order to stop using the unmanned aircraft.

Texas EquuSearch has been using the drones since 2006 to map out search areas and conduct searches, but in February the FAA ordered the group to stop using them, reports The Wall Street Journal.

But the company isn't taking the order lightly. It responded to the FAA's demand saying that the agency has no legal authority to prohibit it from using drones, and threatened legal action against the agency if the order wasn't rescinded in 30 days.

The FAA has been slow in setting rules for unmanned aircraft, but does ban commercial use of drones in the United States, sending cease-and-desist letters to companies that it suspects are violating their policy. So far, the correspondence has been sent to aerial photographers, journalism professors, and weather researchers, and the FAA says it needs to limit drones to preserve the safety of the national air space.

However, the agency doesn't expect to finalize its rules for drones until at least late in 2015, and some industry officials believe it may take even longer than that.  Meanwhile, the drone industry and businesses like Texas EquuSearch are challenging the FAA's authority to regulate drones.

Texas EquuSearch founder Tim Miller, who started the company after his daughter was kidnapped in 2000, noted the unmanned aircraft can save time in mapping out search areas, and in at least a dozen cases, drones "located bodies we never would have found."

Meanwhile, Texas EquuSearch plans to file a federal lawsuit against the FAA if the order isn't rescinded, said Brendan Schulman, a New York lawyer and drone enthusiast hired to represent the company.

The FAA says that the Texas company should find one of the more than 500 eligible certificate holders who can fly drones, such as police departments or universities, to sponsor its searches.

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