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In 2011, Team Blacksheep’s lead pilot Raphael Parker flew his drone over the campus of the University of Virginia. Today he faces the first-ever legal battle with the FAA regarding civilian drone flights because of it.

Team Blacksheep’s lead pilot Raphael Pirker flew his drone over the campus of the University of Virginia and incurred the first-ever FAA fine for civilian drone flight. Today, a federal court ruled in his favor.

In 2011, Raphael Pirker and UAV enthusiasts Team Blacksheep were flying fixed-wing aircraft at a demonstration at University of Virginia, something they’d done numerous times before across the country and beyond, and never with any scrutiny or regulatory pressure. The only difference with that day’s event was that some of the footage his team shot there caught the eye of the FAA, who disapproved and filed a $10,000 fine against Pirker for it in 2013, the first ever of its kind.

The case has helped bring drones and civilian use autonomous flight into mainstream discussion, and has been processing for months. That is, until last night, when the case against Pirker, represented by attorney Brendan Schulman, was decided in their favor by a federal court, effectively making the use of consumer drones legal. Schulman detailed the nature of the case for MAKE in V.37; you can read his article here.

We’re planning to meet with Schulman this weekend at SXSW to get more details of the case, his thoughts, and what’s next. Until then, fly free, pilots. And, of course, fly safe too.

Mike Senese

Mike is the Executive Editor of MAKE magazine. Follow @msenese


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