NPPA Joined by 32 Other Media Groups Urges Gov. Brown to Veto CA Anti-Drone Bill

September 3rd, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , ,

Today the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) sent a letter to California Governor Jerry Brown urging him to veto SB 142, which would create strict liability for anyone operating a drone over the “airspace overlaying the real property” of another person or entity without “express consent.” The letter was joined by 32 other media organizations.

“We believe this bill will unduly restrict the development of new uses for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) by establishing a technology-specific restriction that is impossible to comply with, impossible to enforce, and likely will conflict with the existing authority and proposed new regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), said NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher, in the letter. He went on to say, “while the bill acknowledges the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, its language flies in the face of both common sense and federal preemption,” adding “the chilling legal repercussions of this bill will tax an overburdened court system and thwart the federal government’s efforts, in which we are participating, to bring about a sensible regulatory regime for this new technology.”

Those groups joining in the letter are: Advance Publications, Inc., American Society of News Editors, Associated Press Media Editors, Associated Press Photo Managers, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, CNN, First Look Media, Inc., Gannett Co., Inc., Hearst Corporation, KBAK-TV (Bakersfield), KERO-TV (Bakersfield), KGTV-TV (San Diego), KMPH-TV (Fresno), KXTV-TV (Sacramento), Los Angeles Times Communications LLC, Merced Sun-Star, Newspaper Association of America, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Scripps Media, Society of Professional Journalists, Student Press Law Center, The Associated Press, The Desert Sun, Palm Springs, The Fresno Bee, The McClatchy Company, The Modesto Bee, The Sacramento Bee, The Salinas Californian, The (San Luis Obispo) Tribune, Tulare Advance-Register and Visalia Times-Delta.


Posted in Access, broadcasting, California, drone, Drones, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Newsgathering, photographers, photojournalism | No Comments »

FAA Announces Proposed Drone Rules: will allow use of UAS under 55 lbs., under 500 ft; certification required

February 15th, 2015 by Alicia Calzada

Today the FAA proposed allowing drone flights within line of sight, during daylight hours only, and with a special operator’s certification. The FAA  announced its long-awaited proposed rules, for the regulation of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS, or sUAVs), commonly referred to as drones. The NPPA is reviewing the rules, and the entire text of the proposed rules are not yet available, but based on the initial information released by the FAA, the rules appear to be an overall positive development for photojournalists and will address safety while enabling photographers to use the technology with fewer onerous restrictions than were expected.

“While we still need to review the proposed rule in its entirety, we are very encouraged that the FAA has chosen to follow the commonsense and less burdensome  approach to its rulemaking that NPPA has been advocating for over the past few years,” said Mickey H. Osterreicher, NPPA general counsel who was on today’s call with the FAA.

Under the proposed rules, sUAS flights will only be permitted during daylight hours, cannot go more than 500 feet above ground level, cannot be operated over any people who are not directly involved in the operation, must stay clear of other aircraft, and the UAS must remain within the line of unaided sight (no binoculars) of the operator or visual observer. However, there seems to be accommodation for the use of a visual observer in the rules. Remote cameras would not satisfy the visual-line-of-sight requirement but could be used as long as the UAS were still within the line of sight of the operator or observer.

NPPA president Mark Dolan commented, “the NPPA has been involved with this issue from the very beginning through our advocacy committee, which has consistently offered opinions and advice at every stage of the discussion. We are happy to see the FAA seems to have followed the spirit of that advice in taking a thoughtful and measured approach to the issue rather than take an extreme and restrictive stance, which can so often be the official reaction when faced with any type of new technology.” Dolan added that NPPA, “will continue to observe, and weigh in on, this issue as it moves through the public comment period of the FAA’s  rule-making process,” he added.

Under the proposal, the sUAS must weigh under 55 lbs. Pilots of small UAS, called operators, must be over 17; would be required to pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved center; be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA); obtain a sUAS operator certificate which never expires (unless revoked), and pass a recurrent test every 24 months. An individual with a private pilot’s license will still need to obtain a sUAS operator certificate to pilot a sUAS. Once certified, the operator can pilot any type of UAS for commercial purposes, “so long as you are flying within the parameters of the rule, line-of-sight, etc.” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta this morning. The FAA has long considered photojournalism to be a “commercial” enterprise for the purposes of its rules on sUAS. Hobbyist’s use of sUAS will not require a certificate.

Operators will be required to conduct a pre-flight inspection to ensure that the small UAS is safe for operation, and must report to the FAA any accidents which result in injury or property damage within 10 days.

The proposed rules also considers the idea that there might be a “microUAS” category for UAS under 4.4 pounds “that would allow operations in Class G airspace, over people not involved in the operation, provided the operator certifies he or she has the requisite aeronautical knowledge to perform the operation.”

The rules were presented in a hastily announced, mid-holiday weekend press conference, and are further outlined in a press release. The NPPA cautions its members that these are proposed rules and as such those wishing to operate sUAS must still petition for a section 333 exemption, although that petition (unlike previously granted petitions which included a pilot’s certificate) would now most likely be approved following the guidelines in the new NPRM. “It is also important to remember that while these proposed rules address safety issues, today the President also signed a memorandum (similar to an executive order) ensuring that the government’s drone uses don’t violate the First Amendment,” Osterreicher said. “That memo also tasks the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) with developing privacy and transparency rules for drone use,” Osterreicher added. The privacy issue is one that has been currently addressed by a patchwork of state legislation throughout the country.

The FAA will be accepting comments from the public for at least 60 days. Therefore the rules won’t go into effect until after the rulemaking period is over, which could still take another 2 years. The proposed rules are expected to be posted at this link later today:


Posted in broadcasting, drone, Drones, FAA, First Amendment, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, photojournalism, small unmanned aerial systems, sUAS, UAS, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) | No Comments »

NPPA, Other Media Groups Submit Comments to FAA in Support of Exemptions for Use of sUAS

July 16th, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today the NPPA filed comments with the FAA in support of petitions from a number of aerial photo and video production companies seeking exemptions to commercially operate small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS – 55lbs or less) for motion picture and television industry use. The NPPA also joined in the analysis submitted as part of the News Media Coalition’s Comments in Support of Video-Production Companies’ Petitions to the FAA for Section 333 Exemption. That Media Coalition includes: Advance Publications, Inc.; A.H. Belo Corp.; The Associated Press; Gannett Co., Inc.; Getty Images (US), Inc.; Gray Television, Inc.; NBCUniversal, Inc.; The New York Times Company; Scripps Media, Inc.; Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.; and WP Company LLC (d/b/a The Washington Post), represented by Charles D. Tobin and Christie N. Waltz of the Washington, DC law firm Holland & Knight, LLP. The additional comments by NPPA were submitted to reflect the specific concerns of our members and were drafted by NPPA General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher and Advocacy Chair Alicia Wagner Calzada, who is also an  attorney with Haynes and Boone, LLP.

As noted, the NPPA has an acute interest in helping the FAA properly expedite the integration of sUAS into the National Airspace System (“NAS”).  We also support exemptions by the FAA that would permit journalists, and in particular visual journalists, to use sUAS for newsgathering purposes. The NPPA reviewed the voluntary and self-imposed “limitations and conditions” proposed in the production companies’ petitions. And while they may be acceptable to those groups, we urged the FAA to decline to adopt or extend them as prerequisites for future exemptions or as future standards in its rulemaking. The NPPA acknowledged that some of those limitations and conditions might be acceptable, but expressed our concerns about others that we deemed to be impractical and which would impose an undue burden on sUAS use for newsgathering.

The NPPA continues to assert that sUAS use for newsgathering is not a “commercial use” and we expect to see tangible benefits if the current exemption requests are granted. Specifically, we would hope that NPPA will also be allowed to “facilitate” exemption petitions on behalf our membership in a similar manner to what has been achieved by the Motion Picture Association of America.

The NPPA also referenced in its comments and filed a copy of our paper written in support of sUAS for use in newsgathering, which also included results from a study we conducted on that subject.


Posted in drone, Drones, FAA, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, rulemaking, small unmanned aerial systems, sUAS | No Comments »

NPPA Joins 32 Other Organizations in Calling on FAA to Expedite Rulemaking for Unmanned Aircraft Systems

April 8th, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) joins the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) and 30 other organizations in sending a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) encouraging the agency to expedite the rulemaking process for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations in the U.S. airspace. The letter also calls on the FAA to allow the limited use of small UAS for commercial purposes before the final rulemaking is completed.

While Congress authorized the integration of UAS in 2012 and the FAA has recently implemented key steps in the integration process, the rulemaking for small UAS has been delayed for almost four years. Last month’s FAA v. Pirker decision underscores the immediate need for a safety structure and regulatory framework for small UAS, according to the co-signees.

“The time for resolution has come, and we cannot afford any further delays. The technology is advancing faster than the regulations to govern it,” the letter states. “While the FAA has indicated its intention to appeal the Pirker decision to the full National Transportation Safety Board, we strongly encourage the FAA to simultaneously expedite its small UAS rulemaking and issue notice and public comment as soon as possible.”

In addition to NPPA, the co-signees include a broad array of organizations and industries, from agriculture to real estate to photography, that recognize the benefits of UAS in particular for newsgathering purposes.

In addition to expediting the UAS rulemaking, the organizations urged the FAA to use its congressional authority to allow some limited UAS operations right away.

“We recommend the FAA use all available means, including Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, to allow for some limited UAS operations, subject to the Secretary of Transportation’s safety determination, before the small UAS rule is finalized,” the letter states.

“The current regulatory void has left American entrepreneurs and others either sitting on the sidelines or operating in the absence of appropriate safety guidelines. The recreational community has proven that community-based safety programming is effective in managing this level of activity, and we highly encourage the FAA to allow similar programming to be used to allow the small UAS industry to establish appropriate standards for safe operation. Doing so will allow a portion of the promising commercial sector to begin operating safely and responsibly in the national airspace.”

According to AUVSI’s economic impact study, the integration of UAS will create more than 100,000 new jobs and $82 billion in economic impact in the first decade following integration. NPPA’s Executive Director Charles (Chip) Deale commended the groups’ effort to advocate for a regulatory framework.

“It is unfortunate that the FAA has taken so long to address this issue in a commonsense and expedited manner and we urge Administrator Huerta to include our organization and other stakeholders in its rulemaking process,” Deale said.

The letter co-signees include: Aerospace States Association, Air Traffic Controllers Association, Airborne Law Enforcement Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’ Airports Council International – North America, American Association of Airport Executives, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Society of Agronomy, American Soybean Association, Crop Science Society of America, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufactures Association, Helicopter Association International, International Society of Precision Agriculture, International Stability Operations Association, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, National Air Transportation Association, National Association of Realtors, National Association of State Aviation Officials, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Business Aviation Association, National Sheriffs’ Association, National Ski Areas Association, National Sunflower Association, North American Equipment Dealers Association, Radio Television Digital News Association, Realtors Land Institute, Soil Science Society of America and U.S. Canola Association

The full letter may be found at

Posted in Access, drone, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, UAS, Visual Journalists | No Comments »

Photojournalist investigated by FAA for using drone near fatal accident scene.

February 11th, 2014 by Alicia Calzada

A videographer for WFSB in Hartford, Connecticut is reportedly under investigation after using his personal remote-controlled aerial camera to photograph an accident scene in early February. The Hartford Courant reports that while investigating a fatal police crash in Hartford on February 1, police noticed the craft at the crime scene. The police reported the photographer to the FAA and complained to WFSB, which then reportedly suspended him. The FAA reportedly has announced that it will be investigating.

According to the Courant and Motherboard, the operator was Pedro Rivera, an employee of WFSB who was not on the job at the time. Motherboard also reports that Rivera was suspended from WFSB for a week over the incident.

More and more, journalists are experimenting with remote-controlled cameras for coverage, such as this coverage of a polar-bear plunge in Washington state. But the FAA has repeatedly pushed back, even going so far as to issue cease-and-desist letters to drone journalism programs.  The FAA has told anyone using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for commercial purposes that such use is illegal, and the FAA has been treating journalistic activity as commercial use. However, several users have noted that the FAA policy is not based in any law.

The NPPA has been advocating for the First Amendment rights of journalists to use drones in their work and has been monitoring FAA handling of drone photography and efforts at crafting regulations.

Last week the NPPA launched a survey asking journalists to weigh in on drone journalism use. Click here to take the survey.

Posted in Access, Cameras, drone, First Amendment, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) | No Comments »