Category Archives: Antonelli Law

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!




New FAA Requirements on UAS Ops Near Airports

The FAA’s requirements for UAS operations near airports are dynamic  and they have recently been changed. You need a Standard COA. The Blanket COA and LOA arrangement of the past will no longer cut it.

Since the beginning of the FAA’s “Blanket COA” process, commercial drone operators approved through a Section 333 grant of exemption could fly nearly anywhere in the United States with  a number of conditions which were basically as follows:

  • 200 feet AGL maximum
  • Within Visual Line of Site of the PIC
  • Certain distances away from airports or heliports to include:
    • 5 nautical miles (NM) from an airport having an operational control tower; or
    • 3 NM from an airport with a published instrument flight procedure, but not an operational tower; or
    • 2 NM from an airport without a published instrument flight procedure or an operational tower; or
    • 2  NM from a heliport with a published instrument flight procedure

If you wanted to fly closer to the airports as described above, you needed to arrange a Letter of Agreement (LOA) with the airport operator.

Recently, the FAA has changed this and it now requires a new, Standard COA aka “site specific” COA. And, for certain circumstances,  you may also be required to obtain a Letter of Agreemnt (LOA) if the ATC Facility Manager determines  the operations will be recurring in the facilities airspace or movement areas and the operations are complex.

If you would like assistance obtaining a standard COA for operations near airports or for altitudes above 200 feet AGL contact Jeffrey Antonelli at 312-201-8310 or use the contact form below.

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Beginner’s Guide to Legal Drone Operations

We have been working hard daily since launching our drone law practice group in January 2014 (its our Two Year Anniversary!) and it is easy to forget how hard it is to figure out the basics when just getting started.

Here is the beginner’s guide to getting legal in the drone world. it is just general information and not legal advice, but we think it is a good start to figuring out where to go when you are at the starting line.

Legally Flying an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in the United States

(Beginner’s Guide)

  1. What drone(s) will you be operating?
  • Rotorcraft offer much versatility and can carry heavy payloads.
  • Fixed wing aircraft can be used for surveying projects over large areas of land.
  1. Which FAA pathway applies to you?
Section 333 Public Certificate of Authorization
·       Available to individuals, private organizations, and some government entities

·       Anticipated 120 day turnaround time from FAA

·       Applicants can fly nationwide, 5 miles from an airport

·       Person operating the drone must have FAA pilot license (“PIC”)

·       Available to public agencies conducting governmental functions

·       Anticipated 60 day turnaround from FAA

·       PIC may not need a pilot’s license

  1. Register your drone(s) with the FAA.

Commercially operated drones must have an N-Number (tail number). This is NOT (yet) the online web version for hobbyists that has been in the news. That would be easy.

  1. Once you’re approved under Section 333 by the FAA, think about applying for non-standard COAs or amendments.
    • Will you be operating drones that you haven’t been approved on?
    • Will you need to operate higher than 200 feet above ground level, or within 5 miles of an airport?
    • Will you need to operate at night?
  1. Insure your drones and your operation.
  • Look at commercial, UAV-specific insurance. Discuss what you are looking to do with your broker.
  • Consider looking into both liability and hull
  • You could lose your commercial insurance by failing to follow the terms of your 333 approval!
  1. Get it in writing!

Contracts protect you, your clients, and your employees. Consider having a standard service contract prepared in advance of being contacted for jobs. Entering into discussions with a prospective partner? Think about asking him or her to sign a non-disclosure agreement to protect your company information.

  1. Protect your intellectual property.
  • Copyrights protect original works of authorship, such as photographs and videos.
  • Trademarks protect the identity of your brand.

Further information and knowledgeable, passionate attorneys can be found by calling us at 312-201-8310 or filling out the form below.

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Antonelli Law is First DJI Referral Program Legal Provider

Today Antonelli Law became the first law firm in the country to participate in the DJI Professional User Referral Program. Read our press release.

DJI customers may be entitled to discounted drone law services by visiting our dedicated DJI referral program website or by contacting the law firm through the contact form below. There are conditions and limitations to the discount program, which includes a reduced fee of $1,250 for Section 333 services that includes up to two commercial FAA registrations. This is a further discount from our new 2016 fees and one additional FAA commercial UAS registration for a total of up to two. Scroll down for details.

Antonelli Law’s principal, Jeffrey Antonelli, flies the DJI Inspire as a hobbyist and is proud to be part of the DJI Referral Program.

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Section 333 petition services at discounted rates for DJI customers for simple uses using the DJI manuals as the Standard Operations Manual (SOP).

The discounted rate is $1,250 and includes:

    1) Section 333 petition

    2) Up to two FAA commercial UAV registrations

In addition to payment, a telephone consultation and signed attorney agreement must be executed before an attorney-client relationship is formed.


1) One of the UAVs MUST BE a DJI airframe, eg.: Phantom 3, Inspire, Matrice, S800, S900, S1000.

2) Limit of three (3) types of UAVs.

3) All proposed UAV types must have been approved in prior FAA grants of exemption.

4) Custom UAVs not based on a DJI airframe are excluded.

5) Operating procedures cited in the 333 petition will deem the procedures provided in the DJI Manual as petitioner’s operating procedures. Note: If your actual operations differ from the documents submitted to the FAA you may be found in violation by the FAA and any insurance is not likely to cover an incident or loss. Client requests for customization will be at regular hourly charges or at mutually agreed terms.


1) Non standard COA applications such as needing to fly higher than 200 feet AGL, or closer than 5 miles to an airport.

2) Closed-set cinematography (requires MPTOM manual).

3) Sophisticated uses such as GIS, surveying, engineering, construction, precision agriculture. Rates to be determined after consultation with an Antonelli Law attorney.

4) Large residential, and any commercial real estate concerns.

5) Highly custom UAVs.

6) Heavier than 55 pounds.

7) Any intended use not already authorized by FAA, eg.: night-time operations, greater than 400 feet AGL, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).


New for 2016 – Public COAs at Antonelli Law

Today we are introducing our second program for 2016: Helping public agencies obtain FAA COAs for UAS. We began preparing for this program last year when we kept hearing from university faculty and first responders of their needs for FAA COAs.

In conjunction with our aviation consultant Douglas Marshall we are prepared to help universities and public agencies across the country obtain FAA COAs for operation.

Some things at the FAA are in flux, such as the issue of whether a student must have a manned pilot’s license to take a UAS training course. But just as we did for commercial UAS in our Section 333 program, we promise to keep abreast of the latest FAA changes for public COAs.

For Basic Points and Instructions on Public COAs scroll down past the contact form. Our Public COA page can be found here.

If you would like to speak with Jeffrey Antonelli about pursuing a Public COA for your organization please call 312-201-8310 or use the contact form below.

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Give yourself plenty of lead time before you operate 

Preparing the application – and your budget request

It is vital to give yourself enough lead time to prepare the COA before you intend to operate. If you are a university and want to operate a UAV during the fall semester, consider beginning the paperwork at the beginning of the spring semester – or sooner – in order to give yourself enough time to obtain the necessary letter from your state’s attorney general, register your UAV with the FAA, and gather and submit the other required information.

  • FAA approval can take up to 60 days, and possibly longer depending on the complexity of the operation.
  • The COA can be effective for a two year period.

Three basic prerequisites are needed to apply for a Public COA: 

1) Show that you are a public agency

The FAA requires your public agency to provide a letter, preferably from your state’s attorney general, certifying that the agency is public. This is a necessary first step before being allowed to proceed through the online portal to apply for a COA.

Examples of public agencies who can apply for and receive – or have received – public COAs include local law enforcement or emergency response; public universities and community colleges; and federal agencies like NASA and Customs and Border Protection.

2) Have a public aircraft

The aircraft needs to be owned or leased by a public agency, such as the federal or a state or local government, and registered with the FAA to have an N-Number. This will be required before you apply for your public COA.

3) Serve a government function.

Governmental functions are defined as “an activity undertaken by a government, such as national defense, intelligence missions, firefighting, search and rescue, law enforcement (including transportation of prisoners, detainees, and illegal aliens), aeronautical research, or biological or geological resource management. 49 CFR 40125 (a)(2)

Interesting Notes for Discussion:

The FAA has stated that “aeronautical research” for the purposes of a public COA must involve the development of an aircraft to qualify – non-aviation research that incidentally uses a UAV would not qualify in this definition. The FAA will allow universities to use UAVs for research that is non-aeronautical; however, the defined government function should be worded in the terms of aeronautical research.

A state university with a public aircraft COA can use it for aeronautical research is the state’s intended mission, but the findings of the research would have to belong to the state regardless of the source of funding, including private research grants.[1]


The above is of course just partial information and not legal advice. Contact the attorneys at Antonelli Law for a full discussion of your program’s needs.

The Value of Antonelli Law – Section 333 and Beyond

The Value of Antonelli Law – 333s and Beyond

Yesterday, Antonelli Law announced our new 2016 pricing for Section 333 petitions – just $1,500 for most Section 333 petitions.  The response has overall been very positive.

A few folks questioned us as to the value of having an attorney do it at all. This inspired us to spell out the following reasons for having not just any attorney, but the attorneys at Antonelli Law help you with your Section 333 petition.  In other words, we decided to lay out the “value add” for hiring a lawyer at Antonelli Law.

1. Save Time. Many people take longer to put together the 333 on their own because they don’t have the 9-5 time slot available to work on the petition – they are busy with their own jobs and starting a company. Putting 333s together is our job.

2. Accuracy. Our 333s are accurate – it’s shocking the number of petitions with sloppy copy and paste jobs, incorrect flight times, etc. Ours are right the first time. A lot of folks hire Antonelli Law because the delays incurred with FAA requests for additional information means more days without dollars going into their pocket.

iCam Copters
iCam Copters’ Mike Conrady and their FAA approved custom UAV , carries the Red and other high-grade professional cameras

3. We like advertising our clients’ successes. For our clients we often make blog announcements, do press releases about, and at prominent drone trade shows show our clients’ videos, pass out their pamphlets, and include their videos and pamphlets in the  firm media kit given to the press. We have even hosted a number of clients at our booths at the trade shows to help them drum up business for themselves – at no cost to them.  We think that’s a great deal of value.

San Jose Booth Interest
Antonelli Law attorneys (l to r) Benjamin Fink, Amelia Niemi (thumb’s up!), and Mark Del Bianco at our crowded booth at San Jose. Jeffrey Antonelli is taking the photo.

4. We love what we do and others can tell.






5. Our relationships with many in the industry helps us keep current and we learn of opportunities for our clients as well as ourselves.

Rich Hanson of AMA & our Aviation Consultant Doug Marshall San Jose conference





Commercial UAV Booth
Antonelli Law attorneys Amelia Niemi and Melissa Brabender

6. N-Number registration is included. For commercial UAS the FAA system is still paper-based and is frustrating to navigate for many.

7. Advocating on behalf of our clients – our clients who started with us for a Section 333 petition now have someone to call who’s following up with the FAA, monitoring the docket every day for updates, and – if something were to go wrong – has existing relationships with many folks at the FAA to follow up with them.


While it is true many people have been able to successfully submit 333 petitions on their own, we have also seen that many are bad copy and paste jobs that do not match their actual operations. This opens the operator up to civil and governmental liability. If you have the time and ability to do it correctly yourself, go ahead and do it.

If you would like a relationship with seasoned attorneys who love commercial drone technology and have established legal practices beyond Section 333 to help you get and keep your business in the air, call Antonelli Law for a free initial consultation at 312-201-8310 or use the contact form below. In addition to Section 333 petitions and special COAs we provide solid help with technology privacy issues, contracts, NDAs, trademark, copyright, and litigation services.

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2016: Most Section 333s Just $1500

For 2016 Antonelli Law has lowered its legal fees for most FAA Section 333 petitions to $1,500. Custom manufactured UAVs and special airspace permissions are additional fees but are still very fair. One commercial FAA N number registration is included in the fee.

For most Section 333 petitions, our accumulated databases of research from September 2014 when we filed our first petition is allowing us to proceed more efficiently than ever.  We do not want people to be excluded from obtaining competent advice and turning to generic forms which do not reflect their actual operations. This can lead to insurance denials in the case of an accident as well as receiving FAA violations.

For more information or to obtain a free initial consultation with an Antonelli Law attorney, call us at 312-201-8310 or use the contact form below. In addition to Section 333 petitions we provide special COAs, contracts, NDAs, trademark, copyright, and litigation services.

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Flying UAS Near Airports – How FAA Changed the Rules For One Operator

Flying UAS Near Airports – How FAA Changed the Rules For One Operator

One of the issues a number of our commercial UAS clients have is flying within 5 nautical miles of an airport. The blanket Certificate of Authorization (COA) issued with each Section 333 grant of exemption prohibits flights in this airspace without new, special permission being obtained.

We recently found a change in the FAA mandated procedure for requesting permission to fly within 5 miles of an airport. We will need to see if this change occurs in other Section 333 grants of exemption, since this approach may only be for the unique operations of the operator, a public university flight school, Kansas State University.

For much of Section 333’s history, the procedure for requesting permission to fly within 5 miles of an airport was to get a Letter of Agreement (LOA) with the airport’s management. For example: 

The UA may not operate within 5 nautical miles of an airport reference point (ARP) as denoted in the current FAA Airport/Facility Directory (AFD) or for airports not denoted with an ARP, the center of the airport symbol as denoted on the current FAA-published aeronautical chart, unless a letter of agreement with that airport’s
management is obtained or otherwise permitted by a COA issued to the exemption holder. The letter of agreement with the airport management must be made available to the Administrator or any law enforcement official upon request.

A recent Section 333 grant of exemption however changed this procedure. Now, at least for this Section 333 recipient, a new COA must be requested for flights within 5 miles of an airport, and the ATO – not the operator – will procure the Letter of Agreement (LOA):

“In order to maintain operational safety in the vicinity of airports, particularly as it affects Class B, C, or D airspace, instead of contacting the airport management, the petitioner must apply to the ATO for a new or amended COA. The ATO will coordinate an LOA with local air traffic management via the COA process. The FAA finds that this approach facilitates consistency between the exemption and the COA.”Kansas-State-University-13465A

With every FAA release of Section 333 grant of exemptions, Antonelli Law reviews them for important changes as well as incremental developments to better advise our clients. Remember when the prohibition over flying in yellow areas of the sectional charts went away? We discovered that disappearance even though the FAA had no press release or website update on the change. We hope our discovery of this change for permission for flights within 5 miles of an airport for this operator has helped you be aware it may change for all.

If you would like to speak with our UAS attorneys on the cutting edge about your unique airspace requirements, or any other UAS related matter including filing a Section 333 petition, you may use the contact form below or call Jeffrey Antonelli at 312-201-8310.

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Cool and Creepy – The Competing Drivers for the Development of Drone Law

Cool and Creepy – The Competing Drivers for the Development of Drone Law  Mark Del Bianco

Two weeks ago I was the designated lawyer on a “Putting Wings on the Internet of Things” panel on UAS at MobilityLIVE in Atlanta. My assigned task was to predict how the laws and regulations governing drones would develop in the next 2-3 years. The morning of the talk, I had a set of predictions but no connecting theme.

The paneI that preceded ours was on location-based marketing (think in-store beacons pinging your smartphone). One of the panelists mentioned that for consumers there was a fine line in LBM between cool and creepy. A light bulb went on for me. Cool and creepy are the yin and yang of commercial drones. The development of drone law over the next decade will be driven by public/legislative perceptions of the cool/creepy factor, not by the technological developments in the industry.

It turns out my predictions for the panel talk fit the cool/creepy dichotomy well. Unfortunately, creepy is likely to be the winner in the short term. I’m using creepy not just in the “ugh” factor sense (think peeping toms), but as shorthand for the various types of fear induced in many people by the idea of flying cameras everywhere. “Cool” refers to all the potentially beneficial uses of drones – precision ag, utility inspections, deliveries, avalanche prevention – that can be unleashed by a well-designed regulatory framework.

My first prediction was that the FAA’s half-baked drone registration idea will be implemented but pointless. Referring to it as a plan dignifies it too much. Anyone who’s been involved with drafting federal policies and regulations knows that the FAA’s goal of implementing something, anything, by Christmas goal is a recipe for failure. There are so many obvious questions (leaving aside the jurisdictional issues), such as who will perform the registration function, will it be mandatory, will it apply to all drones, and will it apply retroactively? In the end, the FAA will at best have only a part of the universe of hobbyist drones registered, and this year’s registration plan may have to be scrapped and reworked. But when questioned by a Congressional committee, the agency will have the defense that at least it tried to do something.

The second prediction was that the next few years will see a rapid proliferation of state and local drone laws. The majority, but not all, will be anti-drone laws. Such laws will continue to be proposed (but not always enacted) by legislators driven largely by privacy fears, not by the potential danger of injuries from drone accidents.   Many of these laws will infringe Constitutional protections, but there will be few court challenges initially. Why is that? It’s because in the first few years, those most affected by restrictive local laws will be hobbyists and small businesses, who generally don’t have the financial resources to fund litigation. Legal challenges will eventually be brought as larger drones come into use and the operations of Fortune 1000 companies – think utilities, engineering firms and large services companies – are affected. They will have the incentives and the necessary deep pockets to fund litigation. But challenging the numerous state and local laws in effect by that time may be a piecemeal process akin to legal whack-a-mole.

Where does “cool” come in? Only at the federal level. Most of the potential “cool” use cases for drones – including the delivery operations that have garnered so many headlines – require specific federal authorization. Unfortunately, Congress and the FAA move much more slowly than state and local governments. That’s why my third prediction was that there will be neither significant changes in federal law nor amended regulations for smaller UAS (under 55 lbs.) in the next 2-3 years (and perhaps longer). (It is a given that the pending small UAS regulations will be finalized during that time, but I don’t count that as a change.)

I know this prediction is contrary to the hopes and expectations of many in the industry. But I think it’s realistic. Here’s why. The starting point for my analysis is that Congress is aware that the technology is changing too fast for it to enact a drone-specific law at this point, and in any event it would rather leave the task of drone-specific regulation to the FAA. Congressional action will only occur in the near term if (1) there is a drone accident with significant loss of life, (2) the FAA drags its feet and fails to finalize the small UAS regulations until 2017 or 2018, or (3) there is a widespread perception that the U.S. is losing its competitive advantage (and more importantly, manufacturing and services jobs), to other countries with more industry-friendly UAS regulations.

So any changes in the next 2-3 years will have to come from the FAA, which is notoriously slow to embrace new aviation technology. To begin with, the FAA will be hard-pressed to get the proposed small UAS regulations finalized by the end of 2016, four years after Congress passed the statute requiring the FAA to issue regulations. Once they are finalized, the FAA needs to draft both regulations for larger UAS and amended regulations that will enable small UAS to be used for many more useful commercial operations. That means regulations on autonomous operation and beyond visual line of sight flight (BVLOS). Since the necessary testing of BVLOS and autonomous systems is just starting now, I don’t see how the FAA can get a proposal out on either issue until 2017 at the earliest, and it will probably be later than that. Does the FAA have the incentive or the legal bandwidth to do both at the same time? That’s a good question.

About Attorney Mark Del Bianco 

Attorney Mark Del Bianco is Special Counsel to Antonelli Law’s DSC_2812Drone/UAS Practice Group. Mark has more than three decades of experience representing clients in federal administrative rulemaking, enforcement proceedings, and court reviews at the DOJ, ITC, FCC, FDA, CPSC, and NHTSA. He has litigation experience ranging from state trial courts to case briefs in the United States Supreme Court, and in recent years has litigated the constitutionality of state laws at the intersection of technology and privacy. He also provides transactional and regulatory assistance to a wide array of clients, including fiber networks, satellite service providers, business owners, application developers and cloud services providers.

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