Category Archives: beyond line of sight

Drone Regulations in 2017 – Will Growth of the U.S. Commercial Drone Industry be Collateral Damage of the Trump Surprise?

Part Four in a Series on Federal Preemption – Mark Del Bianco, Special Counsel to Antonelli Law

Prognosticators and pundits in Washington and far outside the Beltway are trying to read the (admittedly very skimpy) tea leaves and figure out what the unanticipated Trump victory means for [fill in the industry, country or policy area of your choice here].  I’ll play the game, but rather than opining on broad, sweeping issues, I’ll focus on the wonky issue of what the election means for the U.S. commercial drone industry.

I’ll start by stating a couple of assumptions that underpin my analysis.  First, unlike most industries, stakeholders in the commercial drone industry want more federal regulations.  The sooner, the better in most stakeholders’ view.  Second, the industry has only limited potential for growth absent federal rules permitting flights at night, flights over uninvolved people, flights beyond the operator’s visual line of sight (BVLOS), and autonomous flights. 

The state of play right now is that the FAA, having promulgated the initial Part 107 rule in August, seems to be picking up steam in its regulatory process. See http://www.dronedefinition.com/on-his-way-out-us-transportation-chief-anthony-foxx-sets-drones-free/. Its Pathfinder program is developing data on BVLOS and autonomous flight. The agency has been drafting a rule that would allow flights over uninvolved people, and according to reports has sent the draft to OMB for approval.  That OMB review can take 90 days or more, so it could easily stretch into the new Trump Administration.

Trump, like other recent Republican presidents-elect, has called for a moratorium on new federal agency regulations during the first part of his presidency.  According to the campaign website, the moratorium would apply to all new regulations “that are not compelled by Congress or public safety in order to give our American companies the certainty they need to reinvest in our community, get cash off of the sidelines, start hiring again, and expanding businesses.” See https://www.donaldjtrump.com/policies/regulations.  Neither the website nor any of Trump’s speeches provide much guidance about how long the proposed moratorium might last.  Given the uncertainty, it seems very possible that new drone regulations may not be in place until late 2017 or even 2018.  Given the explosive pace of technological development in the industry, this delay could leave the U.S. commercial drone industry at a tremendous competitive disadvantage compared to other countries that have put a comprehensive framework in place.  It is possible that the U.S. commercial drone industry’s growth could actually be collateral damage of the election.

There may be a small silver lining in the regulatory cloud.  Like many in the commercial drone space, I see the patchwork of problematic (and often unconstitutional) state and local laws as a substantial and growing roadblock to the growth of the industry in the U.S.  But now there’s news that Palm Beach, Florida, which had enacted an ordinance with scant care for whether it conflicted with federal law, has acknowledged the need to consult with federal authorities as it rewrites its law to protect its most famous resident, Donald Trump. http://m.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/news/local/drone-regulations-on-hold-to-discuss-trumps-safety/ns62W/. Perhaps the other localities where Mr. Trump owns homes (such as Los Angeles) will take a similar approach.  Who knows, common sense might break out nationwide.

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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How to Get a Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) FAA Part 107 Waiver

In our first post of 2017, we would like to talk about Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) FAA Part 107 waivers – What are the steps to getting one, and How much does it cost to obtain professional help in applying for one?

As it now stands, the process for obtaining a BLOS waiver from the FAA under Part 107 can hardly be described as transparent or straightforward. We hope the new Trump Administration will make sure this process becomes more business-friendly. The same hope applies to UAS airspace authorization requests, too.

Many companies contact us here at Antonelli Law – domestic and international – seeking advice for obtaining the BLOS waiver. Many of them have very compelling stories and technology to offer. We wish we could provide both a standardized process (and standard legal fee) that is clear and predictable in scope and timeline, but trying to do so with the FAA involved is simply not possible. At least right now.

What we can do is explain the basic steps in the process and a very general ballpark estimate on what we will charge for our assistance. Obviously the scope of work and cost varies as to whether you are looking for what is basically extended visual line of site operations for farmland, or you want to deliver things far from the ground control station  – especially it is compounded with the possibility of flying over people.

However, the general steps are as follows:

Step One: Develop your concept of operations and risk assessment

Step Two: Develop testing data either overseas or at an FAA test site. Alternatively participate in the FAA Pathfinder Program.

Step Three: Draft the actual beyond line of sight (BLOS) waiver request under Part 107, technically parts 107.31, 102.200 and 107.205. 

The fees for helping you through this are approximately (depending on the complexity and risk of your operations) $10,000 to $15,000 or more.

If you wish to fly BLOS involving delivering something that is not owned by the company – like Amazon is famously trying to do – currently there is no process for this available under Part 107 and another avenue must be pursued.

These are just the basics, but we hope this provides some insight whether you are an operator looking to expand your UAS operations or an investor evaluating a company pitching you  getting regulatory approval from the FAA to fly and make money as promised. 

Antonelli Law offers a $350 comprehensive consultation by telephone with you, our FAA consultant, and an attorney to discuss your UAS goals and whether, and how, you may obtain FAA approval.

If you would like to make an appointment for our $350 comprehensive consultation, please call us at 312-201-8310 or you may also use the contact form below.

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