Sarah Nilsson JD, PhD, MAS
Sarah NilssonJD, PhD, MAS

FAA Drone Enforcement Case 

In December 2021, the FAA issued a fine to a drone operator for flying a drone over protest events in upstate New York. The regulations violated by the recreational flyer that happened during a series of three separate flights in October and November 2020. The self-proclaimed recreational flyer did not comply with all of the eight requirements listed in section (a) of 49 USC § 44809 — the exception for limited recreational operations of unmanned aircraft. Section (b) of the statute states when recreational flyers fail to comply with any of the eight limitations contained in section (a), they must comply with the applicable regulations governing the operation of drones. In this case, since the drone was a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS), 14 CFR part 107 was the applicable regulatory part.

The FAA investigation revealed the flights were over people, at night, in controlled airspace without an authorization, and posed a hazard to people and property below. As a result, the FAA determined the operator of the drone was in noncompliance with section 44809 and therefore subject to 14 CFR part 107. The following list of regulations were cited in the enforcement case: 

  1. 107.12(b): no remote pilot certificate.
  2. 107.13: drone not registered.
  3. 107.19(c): posing a hazard to people, aircraft, or property.
  4. 107.23(a): careless or reckless flying.
  5. 107.29(a): flying at night without a waiver (prior to the new operations over people or at night rule).
  6. 107.39: flying over people without a waiver (prior to the new operations over people or at night rule).
  7. 107.41: flying in controlled airspace without authorization.
  8. 107.65: no 24 month recency of knowledge.

The drone operator was assessed a civil penalty for $15,205 which had to be paid immediately.



1-21-2021 - Man pleads guilty after drone hits LAPD helicopter

Conviction first of its kind

Hollywood Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Charge that He Recklessly Operated Drone that Collided with and Damaged LAPD Helicopter

Hollywood man gets probation, fine for operating drone that hit police helicopter



RaceDayQuads LLC v. FAA

Lawsuit Challenging Drone Remote Identification Regulations

12-31-2019 - FAA NPRM proposed Remote ID regulations, and over 53,000 people commented

1-12-2021 - FAA published final rule in Federal Register

3-12-2021 - RaceDayQuads filed petition for review in US Ct of Appeals for District of Colombia Circuit

Petitioner's Arguments:

1. Unlimited Remote ID violates 4th Amendment

A. The rule infringes upon reasonable expectations of privacy

a. warrantless search of curtilage

b. infringes upon privacy interests of small drone operators

c. infringes upon privacy expectation in the whole of people's movements

d. the 4th Amendment is violated by unlimited time length of tracking

B. Remote ID utilizes more intrusive tracking technology than that already recognized as unconstitutional

2. FAA arbitrarily and capriciously either relied upon undisclosed ex parte communications, or failed to consider relevant information, and to explain or support changes in the final rule

A. FAA intentionally, arbitrarily, and capriciously concealed relevant and significant information

B. FAA arbitrarily and capriciously failed to consider important aspects of remote ID and changed the final rule with no support from the record

3. The final rule was not a logical outgrowth of the NPRM

A. Increasing altitude accuracy while at the same time switching sensor technology was not a logical outgrowth of the NPRM

B. NPRM never proposed 2 transmitters on the same unlicensed radio frequencies transmitting simultaneously

4. FAA failed to comply with the statutory requirement to consult with RTCA and NIST in creating remote ID standards

5. FAA ignored significant critical comments

A. failed to explain constitutional authority under the commerce clause to regulate all drones to the ground

B. failed to justify and explain statutory authority to regulate airspace low to the ground

C. FAA completely ignored material comments challenging the rule's legality

D. refused to accept conflicting evidence as to true regulatory costs

E. no consideration to an exception for model aircraft

F. failed to explain why homeowners and local parks cannot apply for a FRIA

G. failed to respond to comments on the rule not being safe

a. lack of data showing sUAS are unsafe or the rule's safety benefits

b. refused to address physical assaults on drone pilots flying aircraft

FAA's Counter Arguments:

1. The remote ID rule does not violate the 4th Amendment

A. The remote ID rule does not violate a reasonable expectation of privacy

B. Any constitutionally cognizable search would be minimally intrusive and not require a warrant

2. The Remote ID rule is not arbitrary and capricious

A. The FAA did not consider any ex parte communications in issuing the Remote ID rule

B. The Remote ID rule is a logical outgrowth of the proposed rule

C. The FAA considered and responded to all material comments

D. The FAA satisfied statutory requirements to consult radio technical commission for Aeronautics, Inc. and the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Petitioner's Response:

1. Inaccuracies

2. Remote ID does violate the 4th Amendment

A. Reasonable expectation of privacy

a. Special privacy considerations for aircraft in the sky do not apply to drones low to the ground

b. Mandatory installation of GPS is a search

c. Intended law enforcement use

B. No special needs exception applies

C. The argument is ripe for consideration

3. The rule is arbitrary and capricious

A. Ex parte communications were considered

B. Lack of transparency is material and standing is not an issue

C. FAA has not shown changes in the final rule were a logical outgrowth

a. Barometric to geometric altitude

b. Limited remote ID to broadcast module ID

D. FAA has not shown it properly considered or responded to material comments

4. FAA did not satisfy the statutory requirement of consultation



Loretta Alkalay article in Vertical Space - excellent summary


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Singer v. City of Newton – J. Rupprecht - Federal District Court of Massachusetts struck down the local drone ordinance as being unconstitutional. It was appealed by the City to the appeals court but the City asked for the case to be dismissed which the court granted.


June 2017 - The first legal challenge to a local drone ordinance, in US District Court for Boston, Mass.

Dr. Michael Singer vs. City of Newton, MA.

Judge overturns local law that effectively banned drones over small town - September 2017 


1- Singer-v-Newton-Complaint.pdf
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Drone Operators Beware….Michigan Appellate Court Opines On Privacy


Reichert v Huerta

6-12- 2017: Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint in Arkansas seeking

(a) a refund of the proposed class members’ registration fees;

(b) the destruction of all records associated with each proposed class member;

(c) removal any reference to proposed class members’ registrations; and

(d) payment of proposed class members’ costs and fees in accordance with the Equal Access to Justice Act. Reichert v. Huerta, No. 17-389 (E.D. Ark.).

The proposed class includes “model aircraft owners” who registered model aircraft in accordance with the process provided by the Registration and Marking Requirements for SUA (the Registration IFR), 14 CFR part 48. The class complaint arises from the May 19, 2017 decision in Taylor v. Huerta, 856 F.3d 1089 (D.C. Cir. 2017), in which the D.C. Circuit vacated the sUA registration requirement to the extent that it applied to certain model aircraft that meet the definition and operational requirements of section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Public Law 112-95 (now also provided in 14 CFR part 101), which is discussed above in this issue. 


Since the D.C. Circuit’s ruling, on July 3, 2017, the date of the formal mandate, the FAA published on its website, the process by which owners of model aircraft operated in compliance with section 336 may seek reimbursement of the $5 registration fee and delete their registration. Additionally, to comply with the court’s order in Taylor v. Huerta, 856 F.3d 1089 (D.C. Cir. 2017), the FAA will not use the identifying information from model aircraft owners whose registrations have been deleted. On October 20, 2017, FAA filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. Plaintiff’s response is due by November 3, 2017, and the government’s reply brief is due by November 13, 2017. 


6-12-2017: in the Eastern District of Arkansas, another case was filed related to the D.C. Circuit’s May 19, 2017 decision in Taylor v. Huerta, 856 F.3d 1089, which vacated the sUA registration requirement for certain model aircraft. Reichert v. Huerta, No. 17-389.

The proposed class for the new litigation included “model aircraft owners” who registered model aircraft in accordance with the process provided by the Registration and Marking Requirements for SUA (the Registration IFR), 14 CFR part 48.

On July 3, 2017, FAA published on its website, the process by which qualifying model aircraft owners could seek reimbursement of the $5 registration fee and delete their registration. In addition, to comply with the D.C. Circuit Court’s order in Taylor v. Huerta, FAA announced that it would not use the identifying information from model aircraft owners whose registrations have been deleted.

12-12-2017: after the government filed a motion to dismiss and Plaintiffs filed an opposition to the government’s motion, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was signed into law. The NDAA included a provision which restored the sUA registration requirement that was vacated by the D.C. Circuit.

After FAA published a set of Questions and Answers on its website clarifying the registration obligations for UA owners who had registered their aircraft but had not requested deletion of their information and a refund, Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the Eastern District of Arkansas case.


Reichert v. FAA – J Rupprecht - Currently being litigated. Class action lawsuit against the FAA seeking to destroy the FAA registry and get the money back to all those who have registered.



Tech Freedom v. FAA – Voluntarily dismissed because this missed statutory time to file. They joined as an amicus brief to the Taylor I set of cases.

John Taylor cases

Challenging all of Part 101 and the FAA's position that model aircraft are legally considered aircraft. 

July 2018 - FAA's restrictions on drones withstand a hobbyist's legal challenge

Note that the case was consolidated with EPIC's ridiculous attempt to challenge Part 107 because it didn't include privacy rules, which is not the FAA's job to do - please see bottom of page for EPIC's brief).

Taylor beat the FAA. DC Circuit held the drone registration rules were illegally created.

However, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 overruled this case.


Taylor 101 Case Taylor Brief.pdf
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Taylor 101 Case FAA Reply.pdf
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Taylor 101 Case Taylor Answer Brief.pdf
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Taylor II Decision 16-1302-c1.pdf
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7-3-2017: Federal Court Issues Final Order: FAA Drone Hobby Registry Is - For Now - Officially Dead

Just over 6 weeks ago, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a stunning reversal of the FAA's drone hobby registration rule in a case brought by model aircraft enthusiast and lawyer,  John A. Taylor.  

The Court determined in that case that the FAA's rule, as it applies to model aircraft, "directly violates [a] clear statutory prohibition."  That prohibition is contained in a law passed by Congress, known as Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The Court's decision at the time, however, was not final and the FAA's registry remained in effect.  The Court gave the US Department of Justice - the agency that represented the FAA in the case - time to decide whether it wanted to appeal the decision or request a rehearing before the full Court.

Today, the Court issued its final order implementing its May 19 decision to "vacate the Registration Rule to the extent it applies to model aircraft."  This means that the FAA's drone registry - at least for now - is officially dead.  A request to the FAA for information on what will happen to the registry and whether fees collected by the illegal registration requirement will be refunded in light of the Court's decision was not immediately responded to.  

The Court's reversal of the FAA's registration rule may not be the final word on whether hobbyists will be required to register their drones in the future.  At least one bill pending before Congress would reinstitute the registration requirement for model aicraft flyers.


7-5-2017 Registration Deletion

The FAA provided the following updated information regarding the SUAS Registration and Marking interim final rule as a result of a recent decision (PDF) by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit regarding the small UAS registration program.

The court's decision invalidated the registration requirement as it applies to certain model aircraft that meet the definitional and operational requirements provided in section 336 of the FMRA. Owners of model aircraft which are operated in compliance with section 336 are not required to register. Owners of all other sUA, including newly-purchased UA not operated exclusively in compliance with section 336, remain subject to the registration requirement. The FAA continues to encourage voluntary registration for all owners of sUA.

The FAA is working on a final rule with respect to registration and marking that will implement the court's decision. In the meantime, if you are an owner operating exclusively in compliance with section 336 and you wish to delete your registration and receive a refund of your registration fee, you may do so by accessing a registration deletion and self-certification form and mailing it to the FAA at the address designated on the form. Owners who already received a refund during the initial grace period are not eligible to receive a refund. This form has been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for approval of the information collection.


7- 7-2017

FAA Issuing Refunds For Drone Registration Fee

recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit regarding the small UAS registration program left a lot of people wondering about one thing: Where’s that $5 I spent on the registration going? All in all, the FAA collected somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million through more than 820,000 registrations, so it was a valid question to ask.


May 24, 2017 - my interview on NPR Phoenix on KJZZ

May 24, 2017 - Court’s ruling on hobby drone registration creates new questions



3-14-2017: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held oral argument in Taylor v. Huerta, 856 F.3d 1089 (D.C. Cir.). In this case, John A. Taylor, a model airplane operator, and the same petitioner identified in the sUAS rule litigation, sought review against the FAA in the D.C. Circuit, challenging:

(1) an Interim Final Rule (IFR) establishing a web-based registration process by which sUA owners can satisfy the aircraft registration requirements;

(2) a Clarification and Request for Information related to UAS registration; and

(3) Advisory Circular (AC) 91-57A, which provides guidance to persons operating model aircraft and refers to FAA restrictions on aircraft operating within the Washington, D.C., Flight Restricted Zone, and Special Flight Rules Area. The IFR and Clarification and Request for Information challenges present similar issues and were briefed together by the government. The petitioner argued that the IFR is outside of FAA’s authority, claiming the following:

(1) “model aircraft” are not “aircraft” subject to FAA’s regulatory authority because Congress created a class of UA called “model aircraft” that are not aircraft;

(2) the IFR is not consistent with section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 although Congress also requires, by statute, for all aircraft to be registered and registration is not a new requirement;

(3) the IFR is arbitrary and capricious; and

(4) FAA’s decision to proceed through an interim final rule rather than through notice-and-comment rulemaking was not justified by good cause notwithstanding the agency’s argument that an unprecedented number of UA were purchased over the 2015 holiday season and into 2016. The government disputed each of these points. 


5-10-2017: The court issued a decision vacating the UAS registration rule to the extent that it applies to model aircraft operating in accordance with sec. 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-95) (FMRA). The court found that the rule requiring modelers to register under part 48 violated the statutory prohibition (in section 336 of the FMRA) on promulgating rules/regulations regarding model aircraft. However, the vast majority of model aircraft purchases do not quality as modelers under Section 336. FAA, through its website, has advised the hundreds of thousands of model aircraft owners who do not qualify for an exception under Section 336 that they must register their aircraft with FAA. FAA has set up a refund and record deletion procedure for those who do qualify as modelers under Section 336. 


8-3-2017: Robert C. Taylor, represented by John A. Taylor (petitioner in UAS registration litigation in D.C. Circuit), filed a complaint and motion for interim relief the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland seeking relief regarding model aircraft registration deletion and refund of model aircraft registration fees. Taylor v. Huerta, No. 17-2191 (D. Md.).

The relief requested substantially mirrors that sought in the unsuccessful motion for contempt in Taylor v. Huerta, Cons. No. 15- 1495, 16-1008, 16-1011 (D.C. Cir.), discussed above in this issue. In response to this latest challenge, the government opposed the motion, arguing that the court lacks jurisdiction over the matter, Plaintiff is unlikely to succeed on the merits, and that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate an actual and imminent irreparable injury.

Plaintiff subsequently filed an amended complaint, reframing the claims in his initial complaint to allege constitutional violations and adding Privacy Act claims. A hearing on the interim relief took place August 23, 2017. The court denied Plaintiff’s motion. Further, during the hearing, the court asked Defendant to provide a letter brief (no more than 3 pages) by September 1, 2017, identifying the deficiencies in Plaintiff’s amended complaint.

Plaintiff further amended his complaint on September 15, 2017, by dropping the Privacy Act claim and restating the constitutional claims. These revisions do not change the theme of his argument which is that the FAA’s interpretation of the D.C. Circuit’s decision Taylor v. Huerta is unlawful. The government’s position throughout the briefing has been that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear this matter and further, that Taylor is not entitled to any relief. Briefing is expected to be completed in November 2017. 


SUA Registration: Two Related Challenges with Respect to Agency Implementation of D.C. Cir. Decision

12-18-2017: Robert C. Taylor voluntarily dismissed a complaint and motion for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, which had sought equitable relief for model aircraft registration deletion and refund of model aircraft registration fees. Taylor v. Huerta, No. 17-2191 (D. Md.) Taylor was represented by John A. Taylor, the petitioner in Taylor v. Huerta, 856 F.3d 1089, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated FAA’s sUA registration requirement to the extent it applied to certain model aircraft that met the definition and operational requirements of section 336 of FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

The District Court denied Plaintiff’s motion for TRO or PI, but permitted him to file an amended complaint, which he did on September 15, 2017. On December 12, 2017, after the government’s motion to dismiss was fully briefed, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was signed into law. The NDAA included a provision which restored FAA’s sUA registration requirement that was vacated by the D.C. Circuit. On December 18, 2017, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed his case.

On January 5, 2018, Plaintiff filed a new complaint in the D.C. District Court, Taylor v. FAA, No. 18-35, in which he alleges violations of the Privacy Act and the constitutional right to privacy, unjust enrichment, and illegal exaction on behalf of himself and a class of similarly-situated plaintiffs based on FAA’s implementation of the D.C. Circuit’s decision. Several days later, Plaintiff filed a motion for class certification. On February 8, 2018, the court granted the government’s motion to stay briefing on class certification pending the government’s motion to dismiss.

On March 13, 2018, the government filed a motion to dismiss arguing, among other things, that Plaintiff lacks standing because at the time the complaint was filed, FAA’s authority to require registration for all sUA operators had been restored by the NDAA. As a result, FAA’s decision regarding how to implement the D.C. Circuit’s decision, which vacated in part the sUA registration requirement, was no longer necessary or in effect. In addition, Plaintiff failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted for all of his claims, because after the NDAA was enacted, all sUA owners, including Plaintiff, are required to register their aircraft.

Plaintiff filed his opposition to the government’s motion to dismiss on March 27, 2018 arguing Plaintiff has standing, the Court has subject matter jurisdiction, and Plaintiff has stated claims upon which relief

may be granted.


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1-4-2016 - FAA Sued in Federal Court over UAS Registration Rules

The lawsuit, challenging the FAA registration of small UAS that applies to hobby and recreational users as being illegal, was filed in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on December 24, 2015 by a model aircraft enthusiast, Maryland resident, and insurance attorney, John A. Taylor on his own behalf.

Taylor is requesting that the court "issue an order declaring that the [FAA's registration rule] is void" and prohibited by Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. He alleges that that section specifically prohibits the FAA from promulgating any new rules or regulations regarding model aircraft if they are flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

Taylor requested an emergency stay of the FAA's registration requirement while the case winds its way through the legal process. That request was denied by the Court of Appeals on December 24, 2015, stating that Taylor "has not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review."

The case will now proceed according to a schedule issued by the Court, with the next filing deadline January 27, 2016. 


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Village of DeForest v. Alexei Strelchenko - Appeals Court Affirmed - February 2017


Man charged with piloting drone that struck Space Needle on New Year’s Eve - November 2017


Man calls being charged for ‘petty’ Snyder County drone incident ‘absolutely ridiculous’ - August 2020


PA Drone Case Could Be Landmark Testing FAA Control - March 2019

PA Court Case Sets Legal Precedent in Drone Governance Shows FAA Drone Regs Enforceable - December 2019


Drone Startup, PrecisionHawk, Sued for Breach of Contract and Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices - August 2020


Charges filed in drone incident over Center City - Pennsylvania - Nov 2016 

He was charged with risking a catastrophe (felony) and recklessly endangering another person (misdemeanor).  He did a plea deal. He pleaded nolo contedere to the misdemeanor and the prosecutor dropped the charges for the felony. He was put on probation for 2 years and to pay court costs.


State of New York. Incident Report.  Joshua Bauer v. Roseland Waterpark - Jan 2022


$200 Fine, Community Service For Guy Who Flew Drone Into Empire State Building - March 2016


Daniel Verley, NYC teacher, gets community service in drone crash at U.S. Open - Oct 2015


Man Arrested for Flying Drone Outside Hospital Windows: 'I Am Not a Peeping Tom!' - Sept 2015


New Jersey Man Accused Of Shooting Down Neighbor’s Remote Control Drone - Sept 2014


California woman claims she was hit by drone on Las Vegas Strip during fireworks show  - Aug 2018


Judge Strikes Down Michigan County’s Drone Ban - Feb 2020


Long Lake Township v. Maxon (4th Amendment & Drones)– March 2021, Michigan Court of Appeals held, ” persons have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their property against drone surveillance, and therefore a governmental entity seeking to conduct drone surveillance must obtain a warrant or satisfy a traditional exception to the warrant requirement.”


State of Louisiana v. Benson

March 2020


Tracy Mapes

Feb 2020

Tracy Mapes is getting prosecuted for misdemeanor charges for dumping swastika marked leaflets onto Sacramento State University. Also getting prosecuted in federal district court for a different event.  


Darshan Kamboj v. Hollycal Productions, et al. San Bernardino County

Superior Court Case Number CIVDS1714762.

This is the underlying action with the Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company v. Hollycal Production, Inc. et al. case. 

Hollycal Productions was doing a wedding shoot and the drone flew too low and struck a lady in the eye which resulted in blindness.


Joe v McBay

June 2015

The Sky's Not Your Lawn: Man Wins Lawsuit After Neighbor Shotgunned His Drone


City of Los Angeles v. Arvel Chappell

June 2016



FAA v Ralph Rebaya

June 2016

FAA Emergency Revokes Pilot's License For Flying 7 Pound Drone. But Was FAA's Revocation Legal?


FAA v. Mical Caterina

June 2016 - 

He Flew a Drone to Take Photos for a Friend. Now He’s Facing $55K in Government Fines.



Pituch v. Pi Kappa Phi - Los Angeles Superior Court - CA

Woman Sues USC Frat After Drone Falls On Her Head During Party

Party guest sues fraternity over falling drone

- plaintiff Alina Pituch suffered severe injuries to back of head, forehead, and left eye at a USC fraternity party when a drone fell and hit her

- this happened in the back yard of the frat house on October 3, 2015

- operator (Perfect Event Inc.) and fraternity (Pi Kappa Phi) sued on September 2016 for negligence and premises liability



Ellis v. Billcliff - Rockingham Superior Court - NH

Wedding drone crash leads to guests’ lawsuit

Quadcopter crashes into wedding guests, wedding guests sue

- December 2016, two wedding guests (Kneena Ellis and Kelly Eaton) are suing groom (Barry Billcliff) and Searles Castle (venue) over drone injury caused by another guest, even though groom was not operating the drone himself

- Ellis suffered a laceration requiring more than 20 stitches and a concussion

- Eaton suffered orbital and nose fractures, concussion

- they both claim they sufferent permanent physical and emotional injury and are suing for negligence

- venue claimed they did not grant permission to have Billcliff fly a drone 



Doe v. Skinner - Seattle Municipal Court - WA

Man convicted in drone crash that injured woman during Seattle’s Pride Parade

Pilot of drone that struck woman at Pride Parade gets 30 days in jail

Paul Skinner, aerial photographer, lands 30-day prison sentence for Seattle drone crash

- June 28, 2015, drone operated by Paul M. Skinner (owner of an aerial photography company) hit building and fell on a 25-year old woman watching Pride Parade in Seattle causing concussion

- January 2017, criminal conviction for reckless endangerment (gross misdemeanor)

- 30 days in jail and $500 fine

- civil suit pending


State v. Brossart

Imagine a situation in which law enforcement officials unexpectedly confront a father and son. The confrontation quickly escalates into an armed struggle leading to the father’s arrest and the detainment of his adult son. After the father’s arrest, police go to the family’s home and request admittance to the defendant’s properties. The three adult sons present in the home deny the request. Without consent and unbeknownst to the family inside, the authorities then launch an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to survey the father’s properties in an effort to gather information. The intelligence gathered by this drone is later used to arrest and prosecute five family members. The facts above do not refer to an anti-terrorism-related arrest in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen. Rather, they refer to events that took place in rural North Dakota and form the basis for the prosecution of Rodney Brossart and his four children in State v. Brossart.  As one of the first cases involving the use of a UAV, or drone, to monitor civilians in the United States, the Brossart case has received wide media attention and has led to much speculation as to its Fourth Amendment implications.


FAA v. Haughwout litigated a federal district court in Connecticut and the only order was that the FAA’s subpoena powers were very broad.

6-9-2016 - Man who built gun drone, flamethrower drone argues FAA cannot regulate him

The pro bono attorney designated by the judge to represent the Haughwouts is Mario Cerame of the Randazza Legal Group. Mr. Cerame said that at the heart of his challenge to FAA authority is the FAA’s definition of “aircraft” which he contends “is crazy” and would cover any contrivance that flies, including “paper airplanes, bullets and flags.” At a hearing in March, Judge Jeffrey Meyer ordered the parties to further support their arguments regarding FAA authority over small drones. Oral argument is set for July 6 at 10 am at the federal court house in New Haven. Mr. Cerame admits that for his clients to win, the Judge would have to determine that the FAA’s position was “obviously wrong.”

Huerta v. Haughwout


February 17, 2016 - TechFreedom v. FAA - filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia arguing that the UAS registration rules put in place in December 2015 violate a federal law that prohibits the FAA from regulating recreational UAS. (read the complaint below)

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January 20, 2016 - L.A. City Attorney files first criminal charges under new drone ordinance

The ordinance from September, 2015 is attached below - and it shows almost verbatim FAA language...and looking at the FAA's field preemption seems to conflict...(see FAA's Dec 17, 2015 Fact Sheet)

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Boggs v. Meredith in the federal Western District Court of Kentucky which was dismissed. Boggs’ drone was shot down by Meredith. Boggs sued in federal court claiming the drone was in navigable airspace (which means he was not trespassing in Meredith’s airspace) and was entitled to compensation. The court dismissed the case because the court did not have the subject matter jurisdiction to decide the case and the case should be resolved in Kentucky state court.


1-4-2016 - First lawsuit to clarify the rights of UAS operators and property owners filed in Federal Court

Kentucky resident David Boggs filed a suit in the United States District Court of Western Kentucky asking the court to "define clearly the rights of aircraft operators and property owners" as they relate to UA. 

The lawsuit stems from an incident last year that gained national media attention in which a Hillview, Kentucky resident shot down a UA being flown by Boggs, claiming that the UAS had trespassed and invaded his privacy.

Although the shooter initially faced criminal charges, those charges were eventually dismissed by a state court judge. On October 26, 2015, Kentucky District Court Judge Rebecca Ward dismissed the criminal charges, saying that "he had a right to shoot" at the aircraft. Boggs, on the other hand, claimed that he was approximately 200 feet above the property at the time it was shot down and did not view or record the defendant's property.

James Mackler, Boggs' legal counsel said: "The tension between private property rights and the freedom to use the national airspace is important to both the UA industry and the general public. Property owners deserve to be free from harassment and invasion of their privacy. Likewise, aircraft operators need to know the boundaries in which they can legally operate without risk of being shot down. This lawsuit will give clarity to everyone."


March 3, 2016 - Memo in support of motion to dismiss


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Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued the FAA for failing to establish privacy rules for commercial drones as mandated by Congress. Congress required the FAA to develop a "comprehensive plan" to "safely" integrate drones into the national airspace. In 2012, over 100 organizations, experts, and advocates joined EPIC in petitioning the FAA to establish privacy protections prior to the deployment of commercial drones in the United States. In 2014, the FAA responded to EPIC's petition, claiming that drone privacy implications "did not raise an immediate safety concern." The FAA further stated, "the FAA has begun a rulemaking addressing civil operation of sUAS in the national airspace system. We will consider your comments and arguments as part of that project." But in 2015 when the FAA announced a rulemaking on commercial drones, the agency purposefully ignored privacy concerns, stating that privacy "issues are beyond the scope of this rulemaking."


EPIC and John Taylor (the same petitioner who challenged the Registration IFR) challenged FAA’s sUAS Final Rule, issued by the Secretary and the Administrator.

Electronic Privacy Information v. FAA, Nos. 16-1297, 16-1302 (D.C. Cir.)

The sUAS rule provides the regulatory framework to enable the operation of sUAS (less than 55 pounds) in the national airspace system. EPIC previously sued FAA on the sUAS NPRM, alleging that FAA was statutorily required to include privacy regulations in the sUAS rule, and that the agency erred by not addressing privacy in that rulemaking. EPIC's previous lawsuit was dismissed as premature because an NPRM is not a final agency action subject to judicial review. In its current petition, EPIC again challenges the omission of privacy regulations from the sUAS rule and argues that FAA is statutorily required to address privacy with regard to sUAS.

John Taylor also seeks judicial review of the sUAS rule. In his brief, Taylor argues that the sUAS rule exceeds the FAA’s statutory authority to the extent that it regulates hobbyists who do not satisfy all the criteria specified in section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Public Law 112-95 (the Act). He further asserts that the FAA has exceeded its authority by regulating operations that are not in “air commerce” in so much as the final rule regulates low-altitude sUAS operations. Taylor also argues that the notification to airports and the FAA-created B4UFLY app used to assist in that notification violates the Paperwork Reduction Act although Petitioner failed to file comments on the NPRM, and none of the other commenters raised this issue.

The agency’s response brief argues that EPIC lacks standing in this case because it has not suffered any programmatic harm as a result of the sUAS rule and its members cannot show an imminent risk of their privacy being violated by a sUAS operated under the sUAS rule. The brief also explains that EPIC’s arguments are meritless because (1) the Act did not require the FAA to address privacy, and (2) since the FAA is a safety agency with a safety mission that does not include privacy between individuals, it was not arbitrary and capricious for the agency to decline to regulate this area in the sUAS rule.

EPIC’s reply continues to attempt to stretch the FAA’s authority by expanding the definition of hazard such that it would reach to privacy-related harm. EPIC argues that because the agency is directed under Section 333(b) of Pub. L. 112-95 to determine which types of UAS create a hazard to users of the NAS or the public, that the term hazard must be interpreted in an all-encompassing manner. With respect to standing, EPIC counters that the FAA has caused it harm by impairing its privacy protection advocacy, which includes public education about privacy risks associated with sUAS operations. EPIC also counters that its members can show injury because members’ declarations assert that drone surveillance

will necessarily increase simply because of such members’ proximity to test sites.

Regarding Taylor, the agency’s response brief argues that Taylor lacks standing to raise his arguments about modelers operating under Section 336 because the sUAS rule did not impose any restrictions on those operations. All the rule did was exempt Section 336 operations from the sUAS rule and prohibit such operations from endangering the safety of the NAS, which the agency was permitted to do by Section 336(b). With regard to Taylor’s arguments about non-336 hobbyist operations, the brief explains that there is no statutory basis as to why the agency cannot regulate non-336 hobbyists in the same manner as any other sUAS. Taylor’s reply includes arguments similar to those provided in his opening brief.

The Department filed a notice of supplemental authority with the court after the National Defense Authorization Act for 2018 (NDAA) was enacted, which restored the requirements of the small UAS registration rule to its state prior to the D.C. Circuit’s decision vacating the portion of the rule applicable to model aircraft operated in accordance with Section 336.


DC District Court ruled against them

EPIC appealed to DC Circuit Court of Appeals

DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against EPIC



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UAS AMERICA FUND, LLC, SKYPAN INTERNATIONAL INC., PETER SACHS (individually and d/b/a Drone Pilots Association), and FPV MANUALS, LLC  (dba GerFPV and Lumenier)  – This case has been in abeyance. The plaintiffs were challenging the FAA’s 2014 model aircraft interpretation as violating Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.


Academy of Model Aeronautics v. FAA – This case has been in abeyance since 2014. Same thing as above.


Texas Equusearch v. FAA – Dismissed by the court because an email from an FAA investigator was not the FAA’s final consummation on the issue.


United States v. Weeks – Federal District Court for the Western District of Virginia. “Salem Man Pleads Guilty to Felony for ‘Buzzing’ Salem Firefighters with Drone . . . pleaded guilty to operating an unregistered aircraft, a felony that is punishable up to three years in prison.” Sentenced “to 24 months of probation, a $100 fine, and a $100 special assessment.”

Xizmo Media Productions LLC v. City of New York, 1:21-cv-02160, No. 1 (E.D.N.Y.). 

According to the complaint, Section 10-126(c) of the New York City Avigation Law (hereinafter, the UAV Ban) “effectively imposes a complete ban on the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (‘UAV(s)’ or ‘drones’) within the limits of New York City.” The complaint described in more detail the terms and definitions within the Avigation Law.

Xizmo Media Productions asserted that it “maintains a film support business in New York City, which would use drones for purposes of filming pursuant to permits and/or waivers granted by the FAA, were it not for conflicting provisions of the Avigation Law, which fail to recognize federally granted waivers and permits.” The plaintiff claimed that it relies on “the nationally uniform regulation of U.S. aerospace to engage in interstate commerce.”

The causes of action are preemption and violation of the First Amendment.

Xizmo Media Productions seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and to enjoin further enforcement of the UAV Ban where the FAA has authorized it, among other relief.


United States v. Goney – Federal District Court for the Middle District of Florida. “On October 12, 2021, a grand jury in the Middle District of Florida indicted Wendall D. Goney for destruction of an aircraft and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon following a September 20 criminal complaint filing. The indictment alleges that on July 11, 2021, Goney fired a rifle that hit and destroyed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) owned and operated by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) while in use as part of an official investigation. Goney, who is a previously convicted felon and cannot legally possess and/or use a firearm, admitted to using the rifle to shoot the UAV.” 


Free Speech Systems LLC dba Infowars v. Steve Dickson and the FAA. District Court for the Western District of Texas. First Amendment case regarding the TFR over the Del Rio migrant crisis. (Voluntarily Dismissed).


Wisk Aero LLC vs. Archer Aviation Inc. in Federal District Court of Northern California. While it’s a crewed aircraft case, there are many overlaps. The complaint is alleging misappropriation of trade secrets and patent infringement.


United States v. Jason Muzzicato - Jason is alleged to have used a DJI Phantom 3 with explosives to terrorize his ex-girlfriend's house. Failing to register the drone is one of the counts.


United States v. Eric Lee Brown - Prosecuted for a drone drug drop but one of the criminal charges was for failing to register the drone. There was a plea agreement. 


Autel Robotics USA LLC v. DJI -patent infringement action case in US District Court for the Southern District of New York.


Robert Taylor v. FAA – Class action lawsuit over the registration regulations currently being litigated in the D.C. Circuit seeking around $840 million in damages and fees. Dismissed.


FAA v. Skypan in the federal North District Court of Illinois.


DJI v. Yuneec – DJI suing Yuneec alleging patent infringement.


DJI v. Autel –  DJI files a patent infringment lawsuit.


Garmin v. uAvionix - Garmin filed suit against uAvionix for patent infringement.


Sives v. DJI – Class Action lawsuit against DJI regarding software update that allegedly damaged the drones.


6-13-2016 - Drone Smuggling: Inside Illegal Exports - prosecutions under ITAR


Justice Laub v. Nicholas Horbaczewski et al – Laub alleges that Horbaczewski breached a contract. They are demanding $9,900,000 from Horbaczewski and Drone Racing League, Inc.  Both Horbaczewski and Drone Racing League, Inc. have sued in New York state court asking for a declaration that Laub is not an owner of Drone Racing League.


United States v. Porrata – Defendant was sentenced to 5 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine for scamming investors with their sham drone manufacturing company.


Hobbico restructuring under Chapter 11


Chinese drone maker says it’s ‘on a good track’ to profitability, even after filing for US bankruptcy


The Inspector General for the Department of Transportation mentioned that their have been some investigations by the Department of Transportation against drone flyers.  “Finally, prosecuting UAS owners who violate FAA regulations or engage in illegal flight activities has been challenging. Since 2016, our Office of Investigations has opened 23 cases involving illegal operation of UAS. However, 10 of these cases were closed in the preliminary complaint phase, and were declined for prosecution for various reasons, such as the inability to prove criminal intent and a lack of prior prosecutions. Ultimately, further attention is needed to ensure FAA has strong oversight and enforcement mechanisms in place so it can effectively identify violations and mitigate the safety risks associated with increased UAS operations.”


Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company v. Hollycal Production, Inc. et al. Filed April 16, 2018 in California Central District Court. Holly Cal Productions was hired to film a wedding which resulted in a patron being hit in the eye and going blind.  The lawsuit is surrounding the insurance policy’s aircraft exclusion.


QFO Labs, Inc. v. Parrot, Inc., Parrot S.A., and Parrot Drones, S.A.S. – QFO sued Parrot for patent infringement.


UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. CORVUS EYE PRODUCTIONS LLC – FAA was investigating Corvus and the owner. They sent a subpoena to the owner of Corvus. One thing led to another and the FAA worked with a U.S. Attorney to request a federal judge to order Corvus and owner to comply with the subpoena. The judge ordered the subpoena because the owner defaulted.



NATIONAL PRESS PHOTOGRAPHERS ASSOCIATION, TEXAS PRESS ASSOCIATION, and JOSEPH PAPPALARDO v STEVEN MCCRAW, RON JOY, WES MAU. Filed in the Federal Western District Court of Texas for declarative and injunctive relief against the Texas drone law for violating the First Amendment. Adjudicated


United States of America v. David Oneal - 9-2-2020 - Grand jury has indicted David Oneal for wire fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1343) and identify theft (18 U.S.C. § 1028A). – The unsealed indictment alleges that David Oneal presented a fraudulent Part 107 waiver, fraudulent commercial insurance documentation, fraudulent drone registrations, and pictures of two remote pilot certificates (both allege to have not consented) to Seaworld. These documents were relied upon by Seaworld and they paid David Oneal’s company to perform a drone lightshow.



United States of America v. Yorgan Arnaldo Ramos Teran - 1-31-2020 – The DOJ is charging him with a Violation of National Defense Airspace (49 USC 46307) for flying his drone into the Temporary Flight Restriction during Super Bowl LIV. Here is some information from the information, “RAMOS TERAN was interviewed by law enforcement and FAA safety inspectors. RAMOS TERAN admitted he piloted the small UAS that was observed violating the TFR. He further admitted he held a Remote Pilot Certificate and showed it to the interviewers. RAMOS TERAN admitted that he was aware of the TFR, which prohibited drone flights. ln order to fly his UAS in the TFR, RAMOS TERAN stated that he had to select within its commercial software that he had authorization to fly in the TFR, even though he did not have such authorization. RAMOS TERAN claimed that he believed he had the authority to fly because he was able to unlock his UAS, but admitted that he did not seek or receive authority or approval from the FA A to fly within the TFR. I further submit that this supposed belief is inconsistent with the training associated with the Remote Pilot Certificate program .”


United States of America v. HALSTON EUGENE HAMILTON - 9-28-2020 - Filed in Oregon Federal District Court.”[D]efendant HALSTON EUGENE HAMILTON, while piloting an unmanned aircraft system, did knowingly, and without lawful authority, conduct aircraft operations about the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, and the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland, Oregon, a location classified by the Federal Aviation Administration as restricted for Special Security Reasons in Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) 0/00531[.]”


United States of America v. Michael Lee Pilgrim - 9-28-2020 – Oregon Federal District Court. “MICHAEL LEE PILGRIM, while piloting an unmanned aircraft system, did knowingly, and without lawful authority, conduct aircraft operations about the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, and the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland, Oregon, a location classified by the Federal Aviation Administration as restricted for Special Security Reasons in Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) 0/00531”


United States of America v. Andrew Hernandez - 11-18-2020 – A federal complaint was filed in the Central Federal District Court of California charging Andrew Hernandez with unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft. The defendant was flying his drone and crashed into a police helicopter.



United States of America v. Henry Alejandro Jimenez - 2-5-2021 - Guy flew drone into the Superbowl TFR, DOJ Article said,  “FBI agents saw an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), commonly referred to as a “drone,” flying near the Barrymore Hotel Tampa Riverwalk—an area within the TFR. The FBI agents then located Jiminez, the operator of the drone, nearby in downtown Tampa. Jimenez stated that he is an FAA-licensed remote pilot UAS operator and that he was aware that a TFR was in place for the Super Bowl. A review of his drone’s flight path showed that it had traveled over Julian B. Lane Waterfront Park, which was hosting public events related to the Super Bowl. Jimenez also appears to have operated his drone without maintaining an uninterrupted visual line of sight for the entire flight, as required by FAA regulations. Furthermore, Jimenez flew his drone over people and moving vehicles.” 



United States of America v. Kevin Jonathan Canty - 2-9-2021 - DOJ article said, “Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a temporary flight restriction (TFR) covering an area extending outward from downtown Tampa. This TFR, along with others, was issued as part of a comprehensive security plan designed to protect and secure the events leading up to, and including, Super Bowl LV. That day, FBI agents saw an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), commonly referred to as a “drone,” flying near the USF Health CAMLS building—an area within the TFR. FBI agents later located Canty, the operator of the drone, nearby in downtown Tampa. Canty stated that he is an FAA-licensed remote pilot drone operator and that he was aware that a TFR was in place for the Super Bowl. A review of his drone’s flight path showed that it had traveled through downtown Tampa, which was hosting public events related to the Super Bowl. Furthermore, according to the flight path, Canty had flown his drone over people and moving vehicles.”


DJI Technology Inc. v. QFO Labs Inc. - U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington). The case is 21-cv-276. DJI is seeking a declaration from a court that the DJI FPV aircraft controller does not infringe on QFO Labs Inc.’s patents.



360 Virtual Drone Services LLC v. Ritter - 3-21-2021 - First Amendment challenge to state law and North Carolina Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors application of the law to drone operators offering certain kinds of services.


United States of America v. Toure “On April 28, 2021, Cheikh Hassane Toure pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia to attempting to serve as an airman of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) without obtaining an airman’s certificate. In October 2020, Toure was indicted by a Federal grand jury. On August 26, 2019, Toure, along with another defendant, intended to use a UAS to deliver contraband—including 14 cellular telephones—to George Lo, an inmate at Telfair State Prison in Georgia. In Toure’s signed plea agreement, Toure admitted to not having the required FAA airman’s certificate to operate a UAS.”

3-24-2021: “George Lo and Nicholas Lo pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia to owning and/or operating an unregistered unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and attempting to serve as an airman without obtaining an airman’s certificate. In October 2020, the Lo brothers were indicted by a Federal grand jury. On August 26, 2019, the Lo brothers, along with a third defendant, intended to use a UAS to deliver contraband including 14 cellular telephones to George Lo, an inmate at Telfair State Prison in Georgia. In signed plea agreements, George Lo admitted to owning an unregistered aircraft, and Nicholas Lo admitted to not having the required Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman’s certificate to operate a UAS.” 




U.S. Government Accountability Office May 2018 report


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