MLB in Hot Water for Unauthorized Drone Use at Spring Training

The Washington Nationals got caught using a small drone to capture publicity shots without FAA approval.

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By Laura Entis

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You heard it here first: "Drone" will beat out other buzzworthy contenders to be crowned 2014's word of the year (last year's, in case you missed it, was "selfie").

That's just a prediction, of course, but judging by the way they've dominated the headlines recently, it seems a safe one. Drones all the rage right now: Amazon wants to use them to deliver goods to your house, Facebook wants to put them in space, while Rolls-Royce wants a fleet to roam the ocean floor. (Netflix, meanwhile, is just using them to take a jab at Amazon).

Related: How Drones Are Changing the Way We Do Business

More seriously, drones are starting to change the way companies do business (at least in other countries); they're being used to do everything from spray crops in Japan, to cover cricket matches and deliver textbooks in Australia, to shoot real-estate videos of pricey properties in the U.K.

Can you really blame one enterprising MLB team for wanting a piece of the white-hot drone action?

According to CBS, the Washington Nationals used a small four-rotor drone during spring training to take publicity photos of baseball players as they practiced. But while it was an innovative solution (the drone was able to capture shots that would be impossible for a human photographer), it wasn't a legal one.

Turns out, the team hadn't cleared the use of the commercial drone with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

"No, we didn't get it cleared, but we don't get our pop flies cleared either and those go higher than this thing did," a team official told the Associated Press.

Related: Revolutionizing the Film Industry With Remote-Controlled Drones

According to the FAA, drones cannot be employed for commercial purposes, no matter how seemingly harmless the intention. Back in February, when it discovered that a local Minnesota brewery was using remote-controlled drones to deliver 12-packs of beer to ice-fishermen, the agency coldly forced the brewery to pull its drones from the air.

As drones become more commonplace and accessible, the FAA is scrambling to compile a list of hard and fast rules regarding the use of unmanned aircrafts. CBS reports that while the agency has been working on a list of regulations for almost a decade, it's still months -- possibly years -- away from issuing a final set of rules for the commercial use of small drones (i.e. those weighing less than 55 pounds). And rules for larger drones, perhaps unsurprisingly, are even further off.

So, for the time being at least, ice fishers and the Washington Nationals alike will have to go drone-less.

Related: 100 Things You Should Be Talking About in 2014

Laura Entis
Laura Entis is a reporter for's Venture section.

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