TV Photographer Who Used Drone Suing Police For Calling His Employer and Recommending He Be Disciplined
He was off the clock; had he been working he might be afoul of the FAA too
A TV photographer in Hartford, Connecticut, is suing police after they stopped and questioned him for using a drone to capture images of the scene of an accident, and then allegedly contacted his employer recommending the TV station discipline the photographer. Pedro Rivera, who was not working for the TV station when he used his drone, was briefly suspended and is now suing police for lost wage and the violation of his right to free speech and his right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, according to Poynter. In their incident report, a police officer claims he was worried about the "privacy of the victim's body," but Rivera points out photographers on the scene had equipment that caught far more detailed photos of the scene than his remote-controlled aircraft could.
Rivera is not in trouble with the FAA primarily because he wasn't working for the TV station at the time. Had he deployed his drone in the course of working for a media outlet, he would have run afoul of FAA regulations, which permit limited individual use of drones, but prohibit the use of drones for "commercial activity," which for the FAA includes journalism, until regulations are in place in 2015. It's disheartening but not surprising that the feds draw a distinction between individuals and groups of individuals, and deny to the latter group rights that belong to both simply because of a misguided bias against "commercial" activities.