An administrative judge for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) [official website], Patrick Geraghty [official profile] dismissed [text, PDF] a fine brought by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) [official website] against a drone operator Thursday. The ruling effectively strikes down [Politico report] the FAA's bans on the use of commercial drones put in place in 2007. Geraghty found that the ban was not enforceable because the FAA did not comport with an official rule-making process before it issued the rule. With this decision, it is now legal to use drones at a low altitude for commercial purposes. On Friday the FAA announced their intent to appeal [Reuters report] the decision in order to maintain safety for airliners. The FAA stated [press release] that its appeal "will have the effect of staying the decision" until the independent safety board decides on the case.
Drone use [JURIST backgrounder] has been a controversial issue both in terms of small domestic drones and larger drones being used abroad by the military. In October, UN experts urged the international community to have greater accountability [JURIST report] and transparency when it comes to the use of drones. A week earlier, the UN released a report showing that the US had killed more people [JURIST report] using drone strikes than it publicly claimed to have killed. A month earlier, the FBI released a report [JURIST report] detailing its plans for the use of unmanned drones in future missions. In August, the UN stated that if the US is to use drones they must comply [JURIST report] with international law. In March, a US appeals court overruled a lower court ruling and held that the Central Intelligence Agency is required to officially acknowledge [JURIST report] whether or not it has records pertaining to the use of unmanned drones.