Category Archives: hobbyist

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 Antonelli-Law.com. 

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 Jeffrey@Antonelli-Law.com 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 Jeffrey@Antonelli-Law.com  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.

FAA Fact Sheet on State and Local UAS Regulations: Prelude to Odysseus’ Revenge?

FAA Fact Sheet on State and Local UAS Regulations: Prelude to Odysseus’ Revenge?

While the FAA has been working on its small drone regulations, States and local authorities have been passing legislation purporting to regulate the operations of drones. In Greek mythology King Odysseus of Ithaca spends twenty years abroad, the first ten years conducting the Trojan War and the second ten years returning home – engaging in a variety of dalliances along the way, even passing through Hades. Upon his return, Odysseus is surprised to find how things had changed in his twenty year absence and learns of those who had been defying his authority. In one reading of the myth Odysseus exacts horrible revenge.  The FAA’s December 17, 2015 Fact Sheet entitled “State and Local Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)” may not be committing the murderous rampage of Odysseus, but it bears some resemblance because in it the FAA asserts its sole authority in most matters to regulate the national airspace rather than local and state authorities. The guiding principle here is federal preemption.

The Fact Sheet provides two types of state or local laws regulating UAVs for which “consultation with the FAA is recommended”: (1) operational restrictions on “flight altitude, flight paths; operational bans; any regulation of the navigable airspace;” and (2) mandating equipment or training for UAS related to aviation safety, which would likely be preempted. The Fact Sheet contains citations to federal case law indicating that the FAA is the boss, not state or local governments:

Operational UAS restrictions on flight altitude, flight paths; operational bans; any regulation of the navigable airspace. For example –a city ordinance banning anyone from operating UAS within the city limits, within the air space of the city , or within certain distances of landmarks. Federal courts strictly scrutinize state and local regulation of overflight. City of Burbank v. Lockheed Air Terminal, 411 U.S. 624 (1973); Skysign International, Inc. v. City and County of Honolulu, 276 F.3d 1109, 1117 (9th Cir. 2002); American Airlines v. Town of Hempstead, 398 F.2d 369 (2d Cir. 1968); American Airlines v. City of Audubon Park, 407 F.2d 1306 (6th Cir. 1969). (Emphasis added).

States and local authorities who have attempted to pass legislation that fall into the first category have widely been criticized. In September 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed SB 142, which would have banned UAV flights below 350 feet AGL over private property due to concerns over burdensome litigation and new causes of action. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, unfortunately, has not taken similar steps regarding the recently-passed Chicago Drone Ordinance. Without the Mayor’s veto (unlikely at this point, especially given the political pressures he and the city are currently facing), the Ordinance will ban all hobby or recreational operations within the city unless the property owner has given permission for the flight. In addition, flights over school yards – and all flights flown by first person view (FPV) goggles are banned– even with tiny drones that fit in the palm of your hand. Such laws have been widely criticized because of the real potential to stifle the nascent drone industry and may be particularly punitive, especially for operators from out of state who may have difficulty navigating these varying state and local laws.

Having a federal authority, rather than a mishmash of state and local jurisdictions, issue standard requirements makes sense. The importance of having a single agency oversee the national airspace cannot be understated. In his excellent legal history of aviation, Who Owns the Sky author Stuart Banner traces the debates which took place a hundred years ago in the first Golden Age of Aviation regarding authority to legislate airspace. Prior to the creation of a new federal aviation agency, questions were raised as to pilots’ having to know the various states’ laws as they crossed state boundaries. Serious suggestions were made to institute having high-flying balloons alerting  airplane pilots of the state line boundaries. How else to know where each state’s jurisdiction ended and another state’s began? Each state’s regulation of flight differed from the next.

In the Fact Sheet, the FAA states:

“Substantial air safety issues are raised when state or local governments attempt to regulate the operation or flight of aircraft. If one or two municipalities enacted ordinances regulating UAS in the navigable airspace and a significant number of municipalities followed suit, fractionalized control of the navigable airspace could result. In turn, this ‘patchwork quilt’ of differing restrictions could severely limit the flexibility of FAA in controlling the airspace and flight patterns, and ensuring safety and an efficient air traffic flow. A navigable airspace free from inconsistent state and local restrictions is essential to the maintenance of a safe and sound air transportation system.” (Page 2, emphasis added)

States and local municipalities may be well-meaning, attempting to pass legislation to quell reasonable (and sometimes unreasonable) citizens’ concerns and to protect the public against unsafe operators. The FAA acknowledges that states and local authorities may pass laws “traditionally related to state and local police power – including land use, zoning, privacy, trespass, and law enforcement operations.” But having a standardized, federal set of rules to follow is a very important and achievable goal. Even though the FAA has yet to make any real progress into filling the void, its recent Fact Sheet is a reminder to state and local legislative bodies that they should not attempt to do so.

 

Chicago Drone Ordinance Proposal

Earlier this summer, we attended a meeting with City of Chicago officials about the proposed drone ordinance along with members of the Chicago Drone Users Group.

Yesterday, news reports indicated that a revised proposed ordinance would be headed to the full Chicago city council for a vote after minor changes.

Among other things, the proposed ordinance prohibits flights (other than Section 333 holders) over property that the operator does not own, without the property owner’s consent, and subject to any restrictions that the property owner may place on such operation; and goggles designed to provide a “first person view” (FPV) from the model or similar devices.

Drones in the park
Drones in the park

A copy of the current version of the proposed ordinance can be found here: DronesSubstituteOrdinanceVer8

We hope the Park District remains amenable to reasonable rules allowing city residents and visitors to enjoy their drone hobby in a safe, inexpensive manner, free of overly burdensome regulations

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An Antonelli Law blog on UAS/Drone Law