All posts by ja9260

How to Evaluate a Drone Law Attorney in 5 Easy Steps *

How to Evaluate a Drone Law Attorney in 5 Easy Steps*

By Jeffrey Antonelli, Antonelli Law

I was recently given some free advice from someone who works with a legacy international company that is a household word. He is also a serial entrepreneur and he gave me some unsolicited, helpful advice.

He told me I should increase my Google ranking by having articles published (outside of this blog) with certain appropriate keywords – like drone lawyer, drone law, UAS – and sprinkle them throughout several times in the content so that search bots “feel” its right. Oh, and to have those articles link back to our law firm website at 

I know he is right. That will probably work. During the Great Recession I accepted a dinner-with-a-catch function sponsored by American Family Insurance. That very nice dinner included some helpful hints to writing blog content. One of those pieces of advice was to include a number in the headline like 3 Ways to Catch Your Spouse Cheating, The Top Ten Hollywood Actors Who Have Gotten Fat, or How to Evaluate a Drone Law Attorney in 5 Easy Steps.

One of the things that motivates me personally, a core value if you will, is my authenticity. I have the freedom in my law practice to actually implement authenticity in my practice since it is my own firm. I require it and related behaviors including honesty in everyone I hire and associate with. It is even in the legal contract all my employees must sign to be a part of my firm.

Now that drone law is not new as it was in January 2014 when I launched our drone law practice (March 2014 PR here) there seems to be a lot more competition from other lawyers –  including some I have my doubts about. That is to be expected with something that is often in the news and thought of as a “hot” area like drones .  Some I don’t mind and they should be fine – I see some lawyers who are manned aviation pilots, and that makes sense for drones. But I see others who are clearly in it to make a buck only (my opinion) including copying the motivation that I and a certain much more famous drone lawyer who is no longer in private practice have had – flying RC planes – by using RC planes as props.

I think my passion for flying drones and rc planes and the really intriguing technology that brought me to drone law in 2013 including flight stabilization and fpv will continue to push me to keep learning and be on the cutting edge. I remember watching someone at my flying field with a multirotor perhaps in 2012. How was he controlling each of the motors at one time? That made me eventually learn about flight controllers and their inception at least for the hobby folks, using components from their game consoles and cell phones.

One of my former bosses, who had been a capital partner at a very large law firm, once told me that for lawyers to do a great job it often means putting in a real effort to dig deeply. This might mean checking more legal cases, taking another deposition, and cross-checking testimony from a number of different people. In drone law, I think it means continuing to delve deep into the regulations (proposed and final); maintaining and growing relationships with subject matter experts far and wide in aviation, government, law, and technology; and attending the substantive meetings at conferences where the real experts of technology are talking, not just the fun demonstrations of robots, selfies, and media opportunities.

But it also means going back to what got me started in this field – flying fixed wing rc airplanes. I will never do the incredible things my friend Kevin does here, but it is something I enjoy and it brings together friendship, sunny skies, and flying.

One of the things that drone law will be called upon to answer are the concerns about privacy. I don’t think many law firms throwing their hat into the “drone law” ring will have much to say about it. One thing that I think makes my drone law firm great is my co-counsel Mark Del Bianco. Mark holds the Certified Information Privacy Professional/US designation from the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Mark has been involved with the internet, cloud, telecommunications law and privacy for a long time.

Now that the FAA Reauthorization Act may be requiring  drone manufacturers to obtain software certification and other regulatory approvals, the industry is going to need serious guidance from seasoned, respected professionals. I am pleased to have Douglas Marshall with us. Doug is one of the very top UAS and aviation consultants in the country. He is currently chair of the ASTM F38.02.01 Task Group on Standards for Operations Over People, and serves as a United States delegate to ISO TC 20/SC 16, UAS Subcommittee. We are lucky to have him in our corner.

I think larger fixed-wing UAS is going to be a major area of development, and folks with just general aviation experience aren’t going to cut it.  Federal Express is expressing desire for unmanned cargo jets, and agriculture and energy infrastructure needs high endurance aircraft to survey hundreds – and possibly thousands – of miles of pipeline and towers. That means larger fixed wing, probably in the hundreds to thousands of pounds.  The experience of professional pilots like our Kate Fletcher are going to be the ones in the room that get paid attention to. In addition to being an attorney, Kate has well beyond 10,000 flight hours as a pilot for the world’s largest airline flying the 767, 757, and 737.

Our creative clients like iCam Copters and Richter Studios are tops in their field. It helps me embrace the creative side of myself. Unlike my amateur beginning efforts such as here here here and here, our clients are at the top of their game. Creative professionals need to protect their work with intellectual property including copyright and trademarks, and use appropriate forms for protection like NDAs, Non-Competes, and licensing agreements. Attorney Amelia Niemi is not only learning from me in drone law and assisting with Section 333 petitions, special COAs, and drone related business issues, but she significantly helps the firm when it comes to our IP work. She studied IP at DePaul College of Law’s Center for Intellectual Property which has always been highly ranked nationally. I could have used her help when I was responsible for all the legal work for my first client, an IT company that supported data centers across the US for large clients including Walgreens, Acxiom, and Sallie Mae. I had to learn about NDAs, SHARK drives, storage silos, and a lot of other technology on my own then. I am grateful to offer my clients a great deal more resources today than in 2007.

Like much in business, the drone space is highly competitive with manufacturers releasing new models and new features constantly. New players appear and large players disappear or reinvent themselves.

Sometimes pushing the boundary means finding yourself in trouble with governmental entities. Or having to sue a competitor because they broke the law in order to unfairly compete with you.  I am admitted to the federal trial bar of the Northern District of Illinois (and numerous other federal courts) and litigation was most of my practice until recently. When it comes to fighting in court, I rely on the assistance of my experienced federal litigation associate Melissa Brabender in addition to other resources including our local counsel. In business most people try to stay out of court and one of our jobs as lawyers is to help them do just that. But when it is inevitable, our experience shows we know how to fight. Other lawyers may never have conducted a single trial.  We are looking for great cases challenging local drone laws and other issues as they arise. Our team has deep experience and many years in law and aviation. Due diligence of your lawyer should be a part of your business plan just as checking out potential business partners should be.

Part 107 will be coming out soon. Will it have a new airman certification, a drone pilot license? A written test? Implementation soon or in 6 months? We will find out. When it is published, we will then know what drone law will become in its newest iteration. That is, until the FAA Reauthorization comes out. What will remain the same is my commitment to providing value, honesty, and professional competence to our clients. I could have done a lot of things in business or other fields, but being a lawyer I want to remain being a trusted confidant, zealous advocate, and terrific employer. I also enjoy putting clients together when the synergy is right.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at or call our client concierge Olivia Fowler at 312-201-8310.

*It looks like I went over 5 steps in How to Evaluate a Drone Law Attorney in 5 Easy Steps. Hopefully I exceeded your expectations in more ways than just the title.

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FAA Interpretation Allows Some UAS in Accredited Educational Institutions

FAA Interpretation Allows Some UAS in Accredited Educational Institutions

Today the FAA released its interpretation on the use of unmanned aircraft for hobby or recreational purposes at accredited educational institutions and community events under Section 336. The full FAA memo can be accessed here.

In a nutshell, operations may be allowed under Section 336 of the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Act by both faculty and students when flight training of the UAS is not the primary aim, but rather are secondary to the educational objective of the curriculum. If flight training is the primary aim then the faculty member does not come within Section 336’s hobby or recreational use because they would be regularly operating the UAS . The student’s flight of the UAS does appear to be permissible under Section 336.

The FAA gives the example of aviation design and construction in engineering coursework: the UAS operation by the student can be used “to test the validity of design or construction methods to show mastery of the principles of the course”and is permissible under Section 336. Faculty,  since they are being paid, cannot fly the UAS except to the extent they assisting the students in a “de minimis” fashion.

The memo emphasizes that educational institutions may also operate UAS outside of Section 336 by obtaining permission from the FAA by way of three pathways: (1) public aircraft operation and a COA (2) limited commercial operation as type certificated UAS and a COA (3) pursuant to Section 333 and a COA. The FAA memo states that, for example, student or faculty operation of UAS for research purposes does not qualify as hobby or recreational use under Section 336 and therefore one of the above three pathways to FAA authorization must be used.

If your educational institution has questions regarding this FAA Interpretation on the educational use of unmanned aircraft under Section 336 or wish to pursue FAA approval as a public aircraft operation, type certificated UAS, or Section 333 contact Antonelli Law at 312-201-8310, via email at  or use the contact form below.   

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Caveat: This article is not legal advice. Your particular factual circumstances and application of the laws and this FAA memo requires legal analysis by a competent attorney.

AUVSI, AOPA Mention Antonelli Law Drone/UAS Practice Group

It has been a very busy time for Antonelli Law.

Last week, Jeffrey Antonelli spoke at the sUASB Conference in San Francisco on the state of the FAA Reauthorization Act and our clients’ experience living with the constrictions of Section 333.

This week, both AUVSI and AOPA ran stories on our firm, including one mentioning Antonelli Law’s participation in the DJI Professional User Referral Program (below).

If you are attending AUVSI’s XPONENTIAL trade show and conference in New Orleans, please visit us at Booth 371 to meet the attorneys who elevate our practice. It is our third year exhibiting at AUVSI’s annual conference. We look forward to continuing to grow our practice and clients along with the rest of this amazing UAS industry!




Your Help is Needed NOW to Protect UAS Industry in Congress

Your Help is Needed NOW to Protect UAS Industry in Congress

Congress is currently in that famous “sausage-making” stage of creating new laws regarding the commercial (and hobby) use of drones. Your help is needed to persuade our lawmakers to make good decisions that will help our industry thrive.

Please consider supporting the express federal preemption ban on local “drone laws” by clicking here:

Please also consider supporting Senator Inhofe’s amendment to protect the model aircraft hobby by clicking here.

Why Your Help Is Needed

While many of us have heard of federal preemption over states and local governments regarding airspace, some in Congress want to allow states and local governments the freedom to pass their own drone laws. Senator Dianne Feinestein (D CA) is an example.

While federal preemption is already in place for airspace, putting in an express preemption provision in the FAA Reauthorization Act could make quick(er) work to fight what has become a “whack-a-mole” of local drone laws popping up all over the country. Without a good case going up to the US Supreme Court fighting these local drone laws (and that takes YEARS and has much uncertainty) many local entities may be stubborn and try to keep their local drone laws on the books with local enforcement actions on the books.

Here is the Opportunity to Help

The US Senate 2016 FAA Reauthorization bill contains a provision called Section that expressly says the following:

“No State or political subdivision of a State may enact or enforce any law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law relating to the design, manufacture, testing, licensing, registration, certification, operation, or maintenance of an unmanned aircraft system, including airspace, altitude, flight paths, equipment or technology requirements, purpose of operations, and pilot, operator, and observer qualifications, training, and certification.”

Senator Feinestein has introduced a bill that “would preempt state and local laws relating to the operation of drones. These laws would be preempted even if FAA does not take action to address the growing problem of reckless drone use. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 26 states have enacted drone laws and 41 states have considered laws in the 2016 legislative session.”

The manned and unmanned airspace industry is fighting back. A group of ten industry groups including DJI, AOPA, and AUVSI have written a letter to all US Senators to “[oppose] Sen. Feinstein’s amendments #3558 and #3650 or any other amendment that would change or strike the federal preemption provision, section 2152, of the FAA Reauthorization Act and put safety at risk.

Contact your US representative and advise them on why these actions to support the UAS industry are needed, the jobs it will create, and the safety arguments against a patchwork of local drone laws across the land.

If you have any questions or would like our help in your efforts to lobby Congress, please contact us through the form below or call Jeffrey Antonelli at 312-201-8310.

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FAA Expands Online UAS Registration to Include Commercial Operations

FAA Expands Online Small Unmanned Aircraft Registration

From the FAA:           Register here.

FAA: Thursday, March 31 – Starting today, owners of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) used for commercial, public and other non-model aircraft operations will be able to use the FAA’s new, streamlined, web-based registration process to register their aircraft. The web-based process will significantly speed up registration for a variety of commercial, public use and other users. Registration for those users is $5, the same low fee that model aircraft owners pay.

“Registration is an important tool to help us educate aircraft owners and safely integrate this exciting new technology into the same airspace as other aircraft operations,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

All owners of small UAS used for purposes other than as model aircraft must currently obtain a 333 exemption, a public certificate of authorization or other FAA authorization to legally operate, in addition to registering their aircraft. Before today, the FAA required all non-hobby unmanned aircraft owners to register their aircraft with the FAA’s legacy aircraft registry in Oklahoma City, OK.

 Those owners who already have registered in the legacy system do not have to re-register in the new system. However, the FAA is encouraging new owners who are registering for the first time to use the new, web-based registration system. Owners who register under the new system can easily access the records for all of the aircraft they have registered by logging into their on-line account. Small UAS owners who have registered under the web-based system who intend to use their aircraft for purposes other than as model aircraft will also need to re-register to provide aircraft specific information.

 The FAA first opened up the web-based registration for model unmanned aircraft owners on Dec. 21, 2015. The agency is expanding that existing website to accommodate owners of aircraft used for purposes other than model aircraft. This registration process includes additional information on the manufacturer, model and serial number, in addition to the owner’s physical and email addresses. Like the model aircraft registration process, a certificate is good for three years, but each certificate covers only one aircraft.

Register here.

FAA Doubles Blanket UAS COAs to 400 Feet

The FAA today announced that it is increasing the allowed altitude for commercial UAS “blanket” COAs from 200 to 400 feet.

It is unclear whether the action will be retroactive to those who previously received blanket COAs for up to 200 feet in altitude for their Section 333 commercial operations. The newest 400 foot COA document can be found here.

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If you would like assistance obtaining a Public Agency COA, standard COA for operations near airports or for altitudes above 400 feet AGL, or a Section 333 exemption for commercial UAS,  contact attorney Jeffrey Antonelli at 312-201-8310 or use the contact form below.

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FAA Reauthorization Delayed Until July

USA Today reports that Congress has decided to delay passing the 2016 FAA Reauthorization Bill until July 2016, due to concerns about building a consensus around a number of long-term issues.

How this may affect the upcoming commercial drone regulations, called Part 107, is unclear. This delay may make applying for a Section 333 petition for exemption worthwhile for some, despite the uncertainty of what may, or may not, be contained in the final Part 107 and the 2016 FAA Reauthorization Bill.

If you would like assistance obtaining a Public Agency COA, standard COA for operations near airports or for altitudes above 200 feet AGL, or a Section 333 exemption for commercial UAS,  contact attorney Jeffrey Antonelli at 312-201-8310 or use the contact form below.

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Jeffrey Antonelli to Speak at sUSB Expo in San Francisco

Jeffrey Antonelli, principal of Antonelli Law, will be speaking at the 2016 sUSB Expo in San Francisco. Also known as The Silicon Valley Drone Show the event will take place at the Golden Gate Club at the Presidio April 27th, 28th, and 29th 2016.

The topic of the presentation will be Drone Law in the United States, and is expected to include the FAA Reauthorization Act, Part 107 (Final Commercial sUAS Regulations), Section 333, COAs, and defending an FAA enforcement action.

Ticket registration for the 3 day event is $250 until April 20th, or $300 at the door. The sUSB Expo was the best conference in 2015 for movers and shakers, and should be a terrific experience for 2016.  We would not miss it.


An Antonelli Law blog on UAS/Drone Law