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Unmanned aircraft can be regulated by the FAA.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently ruled that a UAS operated by a hobbyist was an aircraft, subject to regulations regarding the manner of operation, after an incident at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. [Huerta v. Pirker]

Raphael Pirker flew his remote-controlled plane in a series of maneuvers around the university on Oct. 17, 2011. According to the complaint, he allegedly operated the aircraft directly toward an individual standing on a sidewalk, causing the individual to “take immediate evasive maneuvers,” to avoid being hit by the aircraft. Pirker also allegedly flew the aircraft through a tunnel containing moving vehicles, under a crane, under an elevated pedestrian walkway, and within approximately 100 feet of an active heliport. The aircraft was equipped with a camera, and Pirker was apparently being paid by a third party to provide aerial photographs and video of the UVA campus and medical center. The FAA fined Pirker a civil penalty of $10,000 for allegedly operating an aircraft “in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.”

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