74 / 58
      72 / 60
      74 / 60

      Court ruling on drones comes too late to help closed Myrtle Beach company

      A court ruling last week could open the door for the use of drones for commercial services.

      But the ruling comes far too late for a Myrtle Beach company that lost thousands of dollars when it was forced to shut down.

      From 2006 to 2007, DDC Engineers owned an aerial photography business that looked promising.

      They had a company name, Copterviews. They had two employees and a drone helicopter that was used for aerial photography that included shots of Myrtle Beach's world record-breaking sand castle.

      What the engineering firm did not have was Federal Aviation Administration regulatory approval.

      That's because the FAA doesn't have a regulation for commercial use of a drone.

      "It wasn't that we didn't understand the regulations. We didn't understand there was not a regulation," said DDC Engineers president Mike Wooten.

      One day, Wooten said the company got a letter from the FAA, threatening a fine of $10,000 per day, if Copterviews kept operating the drone.

      "They put us on notice that we had to cease and desist immediately, so we shut the company down that day."

      Last week, an administrative court ruling led the way for drones to be used for commercial purposes. The judge ruled the FAA doesn't have the authority to regulate unmanned drones.

      But it's too late for Copterviews.

      After losing nearly a $250,000 investment, Wooten has no plans to bring it back.

      "We just don't see the opportunity for profit in it that we saw in '04, '05 and '06 when we first got into the business."

      Wooten's firm works with federal agencies every day. He says he knows what it would take to fight one in court.

      He says the Copterviews story is part of the America we live in today.

      "The pioneer spirit is being slowly but surely killed by regulation."

      This week, the FAA appealed the court ruling. Given the appeal and a two year public comment period for any new regulation, Wooten says it could be years before federal rules are set for commercial drones.

      The National Conference of State Legislatures says more than 35 states are considering drone legislation this year.