Well, it is for at least one person. Back in 2011, Raphael Pirker operated an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) at the University of Virginia. The FAA said he couldn’t do that and levied a $10,000 fine. His attorney claimed that the “FAA’s position is based on policy statement and not an enforceable regulation.” And now a National Transportation Safetey Board (NTSB) Administrative Law Judge has agreed, saying that:
1. Neither the Part 1, Section. 1.1, or the 49 U.S.C. Section 40102(a)(6) definitions of “aircraft” are applicable to, or include a model aircraft within their respective definition.
2. Model aircraft operation by Respondent was subject only to the FAA’s requested voluntary compliance with, the Safety Guidelines stated in AC 91-57.
3. As Policy Notices 05-01 and 08-01 were issued and intended for internal guidance for FAA personnel, they are not a jurisdictional basis for asserting Part 91 FAR enforcement authority on model aircraft operations.
4. Policy Notice 07-01 does not establish a jurisdictional basis for asserting Part 91, Section 91.13(a) enforcement on Respondent’s model aircraft operation, as the Notice is either (a) as it states, a Policy Notice/Statement and hence non-binding, or (b) an invalid attempt of legislative rulemaking, which fails for non-compliance with the requirement of 5 U.S.C, Section. 553, Rulemaking.
5. Specifically, that at the time of Respondent’s model aircraft operation, as alleged herein, there was no enforceable FAA rule or FAR Regulation, applicable to model aircraft or for classifying model aircraft as an UAS.
It is not clear if this means that all use of commercial drones in the US is now legal, but it does seem that the FAA has a significant problem regulating the use of UASs.