Drone U: FAA Tells Search-and-Rescue Group to Stop Using Drones

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
April 16 2014 3:45 PM

Drone U: FAA Tells Search-and-Rescue Group to Stop Using Drones

Every week on Future Tense, we highlight a talk from Drone U in which a leading thinker speaks about what our drone future may look like. Drone U is produced in cooperation with the New America Foundation. (Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University.)

This week, Drone U features a podcast from Brendan Schulman, a lawyer representing the nonprofit Texas EquuSearch regarding its use of drones for volunteer search-and-rescue efforts. (We’ve featured Schulman before for his defense of Raphael “Trappy” Pirker, a drone pilot who was fined $10,000 by the FAA.) Shulman elaborates on the humanitarian use of civilian drones here in the United States.

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Texas EquuSearch has used civilian drones in its efforts since 2005. In fact, says Schulman, EquuSearch believes drones to be the “single most useful technology that the organization has ever used.” Given that there are 84,000 missing persons cases still active in law enforcement records, as Schulman explains, this seems like an invaluable resource. But the FAA has recently asked that EquuSearch “stop immediately” its use of drones, stating that it is an “illegal operation(s)”. (EquuSearch’s letter in reply to the FAA is available here.)

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Timothy Reuter is co-creator of Drone U and the founder of the D.C. Area Drone User Group. He also works on issues of international development.

Nabiha Syed is a media lawyer in New York and a visiting fellow at the Yale Law School Information Society Project.  She is the co-founder of DroneU.