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Last week, the FAA sent a new proposed rule for operations of sUAS (aka “drones”) over people to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (“OIRA”).

Currently, Part 107 for the commercial operation of sUAS prohibits operations above non-participants without a waiver.  This new rule would provide relief from current Part 107 operational restrictions and would significantly impact various industries eager to exploit UAS applications, such as news & media coverage, search & rescue, real estate, and construction.

With this new development, the FAA continues to expand the sUAS regulatory framework.  A rule for micro-UAS weighing less 4.4 pounds is also in FAA’s direct line of sight.

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Think your application for a Part 107 waiver is going to fly through the FAA like a drone?  Think again.  The FAA is throwing some cold water on these expectations.  Earlier this week, the agency issued a Part 107 notice to applicants, reporting it has granted 81 ATC authorizations and issued 36 waivers,  but denied 71 waiver requests and 854 airspace authorizations.  The agency recommends applicants to review and understand the applicable requirements, and demonstrate solid safety mitigations. Continue reading →

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In light of the FAA’s new rule (or Part 107) for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) industry has eagerly pushed the U.S. government to initiate testing of drone delivery systems. Although Part 107 suggests the FAA will likely expand the uses of drones, the rule does not allow for such drone applications in the National Airspace System (NAS).  Among the various companies expressing interests in using drones to deliver goods, are industry giants Amazon PrimeAir (Amazon) and Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Continue reading →

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The new Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) rules (or Part 107) governing the commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (also known as drones or sUAS) took effect on August 29, 2016. The utility and energy industries, which are increasingly using sUAS for operations and maintenance, stand to benefit significantly.  This summer also saw the enactment of the FAA Extension, Safety and Security Act of 2016 (the “Extension Act”). The new law contains two provisions that may ultimately grant the utility and energy sectors an alternative route to operate drones for their own projects while providing an option to prevent other drone operations near their critical facilities. While these provisions may be beneficial for utilities in the future, the FAA has yet to develop the corresponding policies implementing the provisions. Continue reading →

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The Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS), DC Branch, is hosting a UAS event entitled “Emerging Global Approaches in the Regulation of Commercial UAS.”  The event will take place on September 22, 2016, at 6pm at the British International School in Washington, DC. Continue reading →

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Project applicants and permitting and funding agencies often gather extensive scientific data to support project evaluations under environmental laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA). With the implementation the new Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Rule (Title 107) by the Federal Aviation Administration, the opportunity for industry, government, and non-governmental organizations to collect important environmental data previously unattainable due to safety, expense, or technology constraints is set to expand. These stakeholders are already reaping the benefits of conducting less intrusive and more in-depth wildlife surveys and other biological field work using UAS technology, and Title 107 will increase those opportunities. For a look at some of the latest UAS-assisted research projects by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), see http://rmgsc.cr.usgs.gov/uas/. These projects will broaden government agencies’ understanding of the environment and ability to develop appropriate management or mitigation plans based on reliable data.

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The FAA’s new rule (or Part 107) for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (also known as sUAS or drones) took effect on Monday, August 29, 2016. Existing Section 333 Exemption holders may choose to continue operating under the terms and conditions of their exemption until it expires or operate under Part 107 as long as they comply with the rule’s limitations.  Whether to operate under a current Section 333 Exemption or Part 107 is the operator’s choice and depends on the nature of the operation. Continue reading →

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A federal court upheld the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) subpoenas of a 19-year-old Connecticut drone operator in relation to YouTube videos showing two drones (also known as unmanned aircraft systems or UAS) modified to carry a flamethrower and a handgun.  This decision further affirms the FAA’s broad enforcement authority over UAS, but it also highlights the common legal confusion over the precise boundaries of FAA regulation.

After two videos (linked here and here) depicting “weaponized” UAS garnered significant attention on YouTube, the FAA began an investigation into their ownership and development.  As part of that investigation, the FAA issued administrative subpoenas to Austin Haughwout and his father Bret Haughwout, asking for depositions, records, video, photographs, and receipts related to the two UAS.  The Haughwouts refused to comply with the subpoenas and instead challenged the FAA’s authority to enforce the subpoenas in federal court.

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The wait is over for businesses across the United States eager to fly small drones (also known as small unmanned aircraft systems or sUAS).  The new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rule regarding commercial operation of sUAS, known as Part 107, is now in effect.  Part 107 opens the door to commercial sUAS flights that meet certain criteria, avoiding the need for each business to get FAA approval.

In a press conference, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta hailed the new rule as a transformational advancement in aviation policy while ensuring safety.  The FAA forecasts as many as 600,000 drones to be operating under the new rule within the year.

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As wildfire season heats up in the Western United States, drone (also known as “unmanned aircraft systems” or “UAS”) operations near wildfires have spurred technological advances and prompted a series of state and federal statutory and regulatory changes. From a practical perspective, these new laws can impose harsh penalties for violations—including having drones shot out of the sky.  From a legal perspective, these new laws reveal the tension between state and federal regulation of UAS operations and important questions about federal preemption.

UAS operations near wildfires create the potential for collisions with manned firefighting aircraft, such as air tankers and helicopters, because these aircraft fly at significantly lower altitudes than typical manned aircraft operations. Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) rules permit UAS operations up to an altitude of 400 feet in most places, but firefighting aircraft often operate at an altitude of 200 feet—creating a dangerous airspace overlap.  In 2015, the U.S. Department of the Interior (“DOI”) documented 25 instances of unauthorized UAS operations over or near wildfires in five western states. This summer, nearby UAS operations have grounded firefighting aircraft at wildfires in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest, in Southern Utah and many other states. According to officials in Utah, grounding aircraft slows firefighting efforts and vastly increases the costs.

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