Category Archives: FAA

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.

FAA logo




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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Your Action Needed – Micro UAS Amendment Needs Support

I am writing to ask you to contact your US Senators and House representatives to support the micro UAS” amendment to the 2016 FAA Reauthorization Act, H.R. 4441, offered by Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis.
This amendment removes the manned pilot license requirement and other red tape for commercial UAS operations for drones weighing less than 4.4 pounds (2 kg). I feel strongly that removing the manned pilot license is crucial for the UAS industry. I do not have confidence the upcoming part 107 “Final Rule” from the FAA will be on-time in terms of implementation, meaning when you can actually receive a drone pilot license. While I would like the manned pilot license requirement to be removed for all commercial UAS operations, removing it for drones under 4.4 pounds would be a terrific start. A DJI Phantom 3 for example weighs about 2.8 pounds.
To find your US Senator and Congressperson, use the following links:
Jeffrey Antonelli

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.

An Antonelli Law blog on UAS/Drone Law