In setback for drone industry, NTSB says aircraft regulations apply to reckless use of drones

A federal safety board says the government has the power to hold drone operators accountable when they operate the remote-control aircraft recklessly.

The decision by the National Transportation Safety Board, which hears appeals of Federal Aviation Administration enforcement actions, is a setback to drone operators chafing under FAA restrictions.

The FAA had fined Raphael Pirker, an aerial photographer, $10,000 for operating his drone recklessly on the University of Virginia campus in 2011. An administrative law judge sided with Pirker earlier this year, saying the FAA couldn't levy fines when it hasn't issued any regulations for drones.

The agency appealed. The NTSB found that the drone is a type of aircraft that falls under existing rules, and sent the case back to the judge to decide if it was operated recklessly.