Raphael Pirker’s unmanned aircraft was very similar to these RiteWings planes.


A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) panel has reversed a decision made earlier this year by an NTSB law judge, finding that a man’s remote-controlled model plane was indeed an aircraft. Raphael Pirker must pay the $10,000 fine that was originally ordered for violating the provision that prohibits commercial use of an unmanned aircraft.

As we reported in March 2014, Pirker used a RiteWing Zephyr II remote-controlled flying wing to record aerial video of a hospital campus for use in a television advertisement back in 2011. The year before, he posted a video filmed from a drone flying over New York City—including a close shot of the Statue of Liberty. Law enforcement did not interfere with Pirker, and he even gave the New York Police Department and the National Park Service a shout-out for “staying friendly, professional, and positive.” But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wasn’t amused and brought the civil case against Pirker.
Writing for the board in the judicial order, Acting Chairman Christopher Hart states:
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