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NPPA Files Comments with FAA Expressing Concerns over Drone Registration

November 18th, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , ,

On November 17, 2015 the National Press Photographers Association (“NPPA”), joined by 10 other organizations submitted supplemental comments to the FAA regarding the unintended consequences of drone registration. The groups are concerned that a registration process requiring all drone operators to carry a certificate of registration with them, and produce it on demand to a federal, state or local police official, will be used by police and prosecutors in a pretextual way to chill free speech and freedom of the press. Journalists often encounter this type of interference. Police officers who do not like news coverage of an event often use vague charges like failing to obey a lawful order or interference with officers at an emergency scene to stop journalists.

The stated purpose of a registration and marking requirement is the safe integration of drones into the national airspace. The FAA has asserted one of the ways to insure that is to have a means to identify and track the drone to its operator. The groups believe that requiring a drone operator to produce papers on demand will not aid in drone safety.

Writing for the group, NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher, expressed the concern “with these unanticipated and unintended consequences which illustrate how government, and particularly law enforcement, can use discretionary laws to suppress speech activities in ways that were not considered at the time of their enactment. To pass constitutional muster and forestall constitutional conflicts between journalists and law enforcement officers, any registration system, must contain provisions that preclude officers from demanding to see journalists’ registration papers, and to then detaining, fining, or seizing property from journalists who are not carrying such documentation with them.”

The American Society of Media Photographers, American Society of News Editors, Associated Press Media Editors, Associated Press Photo Managers, The McClatchy Company, North Jersey Media Group, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Society of Professional Journalists and the Student Press Law Center joined in the filing.

 

 

Posted in drone, Drones, FAA, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Regulations limiting photography, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) | 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: http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/rulemaking/recently_published/

 

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 »

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 »

NPPA & Other Groups Oppose Texas Drone Bill

May 16th, 2013 by Mickey Osterreicher

The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), joined by The Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., The American Society of Media Photographers, The Radio Television Digital News Association, and The Society of Professional Journalists, has submitted letters to each of the Texas Senators, expressing extreme opposition to House Bill 912, which has passed the Texas House and is quickly making its way through the Texas Senate.

The bill makes it an offense to capture an image using an unmanned aerial vehicle, (UAV), commonly called “drones,”  “with the intent to monitor or conduct surveillance.” This is the core of the offense, but there is no definition regarding what it means to “monitor” or what it means to “conduct surveillance.” NPPA’s attorney Alicia Calzada wrote, “We believe that this bill will create a significant impediment to journalists and others who are engaged in constitutionally protected speech.”

The current version of the bill has no exceptions for first amendment activity. “A journalist (or ordinary citizen) monitoring an environmental spill, documenting the aftermath of a disaster or simply monitoring traffic conditions could easily be committing a crime under this bill,” Calzada explained.

Multiple NPPA members also sent letters of objection. NPPA testified against the bill before a House committee earlier this session.

 

Posted in First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, Newsgathering, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Public Photography, Texas, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) | No Comments »