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.
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 →
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.
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.
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.
The FAA’s new final rule, which will revolutionize commercial operations of small drones (also known as small Unmanned Aircraft Systems or sUAS), will become effective on Monday, August 29, 2016. The FAA is replacing its previous commercial sUAS regime requiring individual, case-by-case adjudications and establishing a broad authority for pilots to operate within certain parameters.
The proliferation of drones, or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), has resulted in a growing interest in preventing unlawful and potentially dangerous drone operations. Private entities are generally prohibited from taking self-help defensive actions (i.e., shooting down drones) and doing so may result in civil and/or criminal penalties. As the interest in defenses grows, Congress has authorized the FAA to create more No-Drone Zones and funded an FAA pilot program for government defense technologies to protect government assets.
The FAA has stopped processing Section 333 Exemption applications. With thousands of petitions in the queue, the FAA will make applicants that would qualify to operate under Part 107 wait until the new rule is effective in August to operate. Meanwhile, for those petitioners that will not fall under Part 107, the FAA will continue to process the Section 333 Exemption petitions.
In the FAA Extension legislation, Congress implemented important safety provisions related to drones (also known as unmanned aircraft systems or “UAS”). The language, which President Obama signed into law late last week, addresses UAS operations involving airports, critical infrastructure, and emergency response.
FAA’s Part 107 regulations create a structure to integrate commercial small unmanned aircraft systems (also known as sUAS or drones) into the National Airspace System (NAS). As part of this structure, the FAA has given the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) a new and potentially time-consuming task: vetting commercial sUAS pilots who do not already have a certificate to operate manned flights. The proliferation of new applications underscores the importance of having an adequately staffed and funded TSA so integration of commercial sUAS is not delayed.