Tag Archives: drone law

Antonelli Law at AUVSI – Lawyers Who Fly

Antonelli Law will be exhibiting next week at the 2014  AUVSI Unmanned Systems Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida. Our attorneys will be present at Booth 151 as we learn about the  newest drone/UAS systems in the world, attend technical sessions, and hear featured speakers. With a commercial airline pilot and unmanned aircraft pilot as just two of the attorneys in our Drone/UAS Practice Group, we really are Lawyers Who Fly.

One of our most anticipated sessions will be featuring Jim Williams, manager of FAA’s UAS Integration Office. We know there are many companies and individuals who are waiting on the sidelines of commerce to launch drone-based services – a number of whom have already contacted our Drone/UAS Practice Group for guidance.  We eagerly await word when FAA proposed regulations will come out, especially for “small” drones under 55 pounds, sometimes referred to as “sUAS.”

While we cannot possibly list all the technical and other sessions we will be attending, two are worth mentioning here: Drone Insurance and Sense and Avoid technology.

Companies cannot rationally operate without insuring against risk of liability, so Insurance: Supporting the Pathway to Commercialization  is on the top of our list. In addition,  GA-ASI Sense and Avoid System: Facilitating the Integration of UAS Into Civilian, Domestic and International Airspace looks promising as well.

Why Sense and Avoid? While trying to maintain control of your craft through line of sight is helped by experience, caution, and features like return-to-home guided by GPS, accidents do happen. I took out my new DJI Phantom Vision 2+ just last night, and to my surprise while hovering over a grove of trees (to locate a lost r/c airplane from last season) one of the props hit a treetop branch and down the Phantom went! Thankfully, all seems well including the wonderful new 3-axis gimbal. Sense and Avoid is a practical necessity, indeed.

If you are attending AUVSI this year, please stop by Booth 151, meet us, and learn about the Drone/UAS Practice Group at Antonelli Law.  We represent clients across the country and are deeply experienced in aviation, federal administrative law, litigation, and technology law.

We are Lawyers Who Fly.

15 New Drone Bills – Updated State Survey

There have been 15 newly introduced bills since our last update. We are nearing 200 introduced bills, including those from current and previous sessions.

Since the last survey, Utah enacted 2 bills and there are also bills in Tennessee, Indiana and Washington that await their Governor’s signature.

UPDATED Link: State Survey of Drone Laws – Bills and Enacted – Antonelli Law

This survey is being used for informational and research use only. It  is not legal advice, and is not guaranteed to be either accurate or up to date. We do  hope, however, that it provides a helpful launching point for our readers performing their own research on state laws and drones.

Antonelli Law originally posted its 44 state survey of proposed bills and enacted laws related to drones/UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) on March 8, 2014. This Survey will now be its own page.

44 State Survey of Drone Laws Proposed and Enacted

Antonelli Law has compiled a 44 state survey of proposed bills and enacted laws related to drones/UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

This survey is being used for informational and research use only. It  is not legal advice, and is not guaranteed to be either accurate or up to date. We do  hope, however, that it provides a helpful launching point for our readers performing their own research on state laws and drones.

We will likely be updating the state survey from time to time and make it accessible as a link within DroneLawsBlog.com

Link:  44 State Drone Law Survey

FAA Commercial Drone Ban Overturned – For Now

UPDATE: FAA has filed its Notice of Appeal of the case below <– Reuters Link

Yesterday, March 6 2014, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) granted respondent Raphael Pirker’s motion to dismiss the FAA’s civil fine against him, stating the FAA policy since 2007 banning commercial use of drones in the U.S. has not had the force of law. Pirker had been fined $10,000 for using his 56 inch foam model airplane on the University of Virginia campus to obtain aerial video footage in exchange for compensation.

In the FAA Complaint, FAA alleged Respondent Pirker’s model aircraft was an Umanned Aircraft System and an “aircraft.” Thus, FAA argued, Pirker was subject to FAA Part 91 Section 91.13 (a)’s prohibition: “No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another”; FAA Part 21.171 et seq requiring airworthiness certificates; and FAA Part 47 Section 47.3 requiring registration with FAA before flying.

However, the NTSB administrative law judge looked at several of FAA’s previous writings, the statutory regulation of Ultralights, and the language of the FAA Modernization Re-authorization and Reform Act of 2012 to come to the conclusion that FAA did not have the legal authority it asserted it had against Pirker. These writings  undercut FAA’s arguments that Pirker’s model airplane could be considered an “aircraft” and thus be subject to the regulations it had alleged Pirker violated.

First, the judge cited FAA’s 1981 Advisory Circular 91-57 (“AC 91-57”) which addresses model aircraft. AC 91-57 requests voluntary compliance stating: “Do not fly model aircraft higher than 400 feet above the surface” and advises against flying at sites near “noise sensitive areas such as parks, schools, hospitals, churches, etc.”; and advises staying away from spectators until the aircraft has been proven airworthy.

Second,  the judge looked to FAA Part 103 which addresses ultralight flying vehicles. The judge found here that ultralights are  not designated “aircraft” and subject to FAA Part 91. Part 103 defines an ultralight vehicle as “a vehicle that: (a) Is used or intended to be used for manned operation in the air by a single occupant; (b) Is used or intended to be used for recreation or sport purposes only;(c) Does not have any U.S. or foreign airworthiness certificate” and if powered, is less than 254 pounds empty weight, or if unpowered, is less than 155 pounds. Since an ultralight is not considered an “aircraft” then maybe a model airplane (small drone) is not one, either.

Third, the judge looked at FAA’s 2007 Notice 07-01 which specifies  that a UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) must have an airworthiness certificate. The judge found this was a policy statement without the force of law. Notice 07-01 failed to be issued “as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and if intended to establish a substantive rule, it did not satisfy the requirements of 5 U.S.C. Section 553 (d), which requires publication of notice not less than 30 days before the effective date.”

Finally, the judge cited the FAA Modernization Re-authorization and Reform Act of 2012 as instructive as well. It believed that because the Act called for the issuance of a rule to be issued regarding regulating model aircraft, Congress did not believe any rule existed regulating model aircraft.

This NTSB opinion may be somewhat embarrassing for the FAA, coming on the heels of FAA’s February 26th publication Busting Myths about the FAA and Unmanned Aircraft wherein it states: “Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft—manned or unmanned—in U.S. airspace needs some level of FAA approval.” The Pirker opinion clearly states that the definitions of “aircraft” found in either Part 1, Section 1.1 or 49 U.S.C. Section 40102 (a)(6)’s definitions of aircraft do not apply to model airplanes like Pirker’s 56 inch wingspan RiteWing Zephyr (presumably a “small drone”). And, model aircraft are only subject to the voluntary compliance of the FAA’s 1981 safety guidelines found in AC 91-57.

The Pirker opinion is an excellent example of how legal advocacy can successfully challenge even a behemoth like FAA. Lawyers like Raphael Pirkman’s Brendan Schulman may uncover mistakes in an aggressive party’s legal position, sometimes revealing that the emperor has no clothes.

The FAA’s next move may be an appeal of this NTSB decision. While some commentators have begun rejoicing that the skies are now open for business for commercial drone use (for profit) as a result of this opinion, it would be wise for operators to act with caution. Even United States Supreme Court justices disagree with each other, and it is possible that the Pirker decision is not the last word on the ability of FAA to issue fines.

Hopefully, we will see relatively soon the new regulations for “small drones” in the under 55 pound category in 2014. This will finally give much needed clarity for when, and how, small drone operators may conduct business in the United States. Until then, tread lightly and responsibly.

Disclaimer: As always, the writings in DroneLawsBlog.com are not legal advice, and you should seek competent legal advice specific to your particular facts.  No attorney-client relationship is formed between readers of DroneLawsBlog.com and Antonelli Law unless you and the firm agree upon and sign an attorney agreement or similar letter agreement.


man carrying uav drone

One Idea to Hasten Autonomous Drone Acceptance

I recently asked my research assistant David Heath  to help get me up to speed on the various Sense and Avoid (SAA) technologies available for drone/UAV use (I’m still working on whether to just use the word “drone” from now on).  David gave me some information on the BAE Systems’ AD/DPX-7 Identification Friend-or-Foe (IFF) transponder with Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) receiver; the GA-ASI-developed Due Regard Radar (DRR); and Honeywell’s TPA-100 Traffic Collision Avoidance System or TCAS.

A few days later, I was discussing with attorney and pilot Kate Fletcher about an article we recently read about drones getting too close to commercial aircraft’s airspace.  Clearly, nobody wants drones to interfere with the safe operation of full scale aircraft! We discussed a bit about the systems in place for aircraft to aircraft avoidance. It then occurred to me that what is needed is a technology that prevents a drone from being operated into the path of an airplane.  In other words, no matter what the input of the drone operator, even if they tried to get a drone into prohibited airspace, it just would not work. Likewise, no autonomous drones would be permitted into the impending path, no matter the GPS way points inputted.

I have no idea if this is already being worked on, and it does make me recall the criticisms of President Clinton calling for a “V chip” in televisions to restrict children from viewing inappropriate programming -the technology apparently did not exist at the time it was required by law to be put in place in the future. However, if the drone/UAV industry were to soon demonstrate this technology is bulletproof, just maybe it will help speed up FAA regulations permitting commercial use of drones.

What do you think? Is this already being worked on? Please let us know in the comments.

Drone Laws Blog by Antonelli Law

Antonelli Law focuses on business and individual intellectual property technology issues, including internet copyright infringement, and the use and manufacturing of civilian drones. The firm’s Principal, Jeffrey Antonelli, began flying radio controlled airplanes several years ago which lead him to research new technologies including first person viewing (FPV) and drones. Drones are also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned aircraft systems (UASs).

Our Drone Law legal practice began in January 2014. We began by researching the current state of both FAA and state laws. We then  hired an engineering student as a research assistant to help us genuinely understand the technological challenges facing our future clients.

In February 2014 we added attorney Kate Fletcher as Of Counsel to the firm. In addition to her law practice, Kate is a 737 pilot with American Airlines.  Kate has over 10,000 hours of flight experience and is Type-Rated in the Saab 340, Citation CE-500, DC-9, Boeing 737, 757, and 767.  Kate’s flying experience is varied and includes traffic watch in the San Francisco Bay Area, Air Ambulance, Flight Instructing and Communter and Major Airline Domestic and International flying.  Kate brings a wealth of knowledge in aviation to the practice of law.

We look forward to serving future clients involved in the manufacture and use of drones at Antonelli Law, and will use this  DroneLawsBlog.com to share news, insights, and updates to the swiftly changing state of the law and the Drone Law practice of the firm.

Jeffrey Antonelli

This video clearly shows the ability to provide a true bird’s eye view of an entire operation. With a drone/UAV, the operator can obtain updated data of a constantly changing site, such as this mining operation.