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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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

The Best Resource For Experts In Commercial Drones

sUAS News’ sUAS Guide Inaugural Issue has been released. If you have not heard of sUAS News you should.  They were pioneers in the commercial drone world long before most of us even knew there was such a market.

The Silicon Valley Drone Show aka The sUSB Expo has been held annually since 2012 and is the premier drone conference and expo in the United States. Many of the people in the audience as well as the speakers are at the top of the field and the event should not be missed – April 27, 28, 29th in San Francisco’s Presidio.

sUAS News puts on the premiere commercial drone conference and expo each year in San Francisco
sUAS News puts on the premiere commercial drone conference and expo each year in San Francisco

Note: sUAS News is a client of Antonelli Law, the publisher of this blog. No compensation was paid to Antonelli Law for this blog post. We’ve been a fan of sUAS News long before they became a client!

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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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.


FAA Announces Mandatory Drone Registration – Including Hobbyists

Today the FAA announced “a web-based aircraft registration process for the registration of small unmanned aircraft, including small unmanned aircraft operated as model aircraft, to facilitate compliance with the statutory requirement that all aircraft register prior to operation.”

The procedural status of this rule is an “interim rule” which means you can still make official comments to oppose or support this measure (see below).

We previously stated our belief that imposing this rule on hobbyists is likely to be challenged as illegal under the 2012 FMRA.  A better idea may have been to require registration only to those drones and rc aircraft with autopilot functionality and/or First-Person-View (FPV) ability.

After today, the question is: Do you feel regulated? The Administrator indicated that enforcement of this registration requirement may be local law enforcement.

Section 336 of the FMRA is the “stone in my shoe.” While I listen to the FAA’s explanation of why they have the authority to force model aircraft registration I keep coming back to Section 336 which says:

.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law
relating to the incorporation of unmanned aircraft systems into
Federal Aviation Administration plans and policies, including this
subtitle, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration
may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model
aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft


Hobbyists are being compelled under force of law to register with large monetary and possible criminal penalties for failure to register.  If the requirement for registering model aircraft has been “required” for decades and thus not part of the prohibition of regulating model aircraft  under Section 336, why wasn’t it done before? This feels like intellectual gymnastics.   If the need to register is a public safety reason, FAA ought to ask Congress for the authority to impose registration on model aircraft.

The FAA states “If you own a drone, you must register it with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) registry. A federal law effective December 21, 2016 requires unmanned aircraft registration, and you are subject to civil and criminal penalties if you do not register.”

“Failure to register an aircraft may result in regulatory and criminal sanctions. The FAA may assess civil penalties up to $27,500. Criminal penalties include fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years.”

The FAA’s FAQ can be found here.


Send comments identified by docket number FAA-2015-7396 using any of the following methods:
Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to and follow the online instructions for sending your comments electronically.
Mail: Send comments to Docket Operations, M-30; U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT),1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Room W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC20590-0001.
Hand Delivery or Courier: Take comments to Docket Operations in Room W12-140 of the West Building Ground Floor at
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
Fax: Fax comments to Docket Operations at 202-493-2251.

The full interim rule may be viewed here.

An Antonelli Law blog on UAS/Drone Law