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The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), chartered earlier this year, was unable to reach a consensus on key issues. Given that Michael Huerta, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), described the committee’s work as fundamental for allowing operations over people and operations beyond the visual line-of-sight (BVLOS), the committee’s inability to reach a consensus could mean further delay in the necessary regulation that would allow for these operations.

What Is the ARC and What Was It Supposed to Do?

As rules and regulations stand currently, the interim rule entitled “Registration and Marking for Small Unmanned Aircraft” does not include provisions for identifying small aircraft during operations. The FAA recognized that having a remote identification process could provide value in terms of public safety and the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS), so it chartered the ARC on May 4, 2017. The ARC was designed to inform the FAA on the available technologies for remote identification and tracking, shortfalls in available standards, and to make recommendations for how remote identification may be implemented. As of June, the committee had more than 70 members representing a variety of interested stakeholders including representatives from the UAS industry, UAS manufacturers, local law enforcement, and more. Continue reading →

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As UAS technology starts to transform traditional industries, so, too, are entrepreneurs looking for ways to build companies that capitalize on the intersection of swiftly evolving tech and the opportunities it creates. Recently, our colleague Christian Salaman sat down with client Mike Ritter, the CEO and cofounder of SlantRange, an agriculture-focused analytics provider, to discuss the challenges of getting a great idea in front of investors, as well as the future of autonomous farming.

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Last week US District Judge William G. Young ruled in favor of Dr. Singer in Singer’s lawsuit against the city of Newton, MA (Newton) challenging portions of the city’s local unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drone) ordinance. With the continued proliferation of state and local drone laws, the case drew a considerable amount of attention, with some even contending that the ruling “establishes a rock solid affirmation that the federal government unequivocally holds jurisdiction over the drone industry.” While the ruling does bode well for proponents of federal preemption in the UAS space and can be interpreted as a solid first step, its impact is limited.

What was at Issue Here?

On December 19, 2016, Newton passed an ordinance regulating UAS operations within the city. The ordinance was designed to allow beneficial uses of drones while protecting the privacy of residents throughout the city, and was intended to be read and interpreted in harmony with all relevant rules and regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Dr. Michael Singer, a Newton resident and certified small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) pilot who owns and operates multiple drones, filed suit against the city challenging four provisions of the ordinance. Dr. Singer claimed that the registration requirements in section (b) and the operation limits of subsections (c)(1)(a), (c)(1)(b), and (c)(1)(e) were both field and conflict preempted by federal law. Judge Young determined that all four provisions were conflict preempted thus striking down those portions of the ordinance. Continue reading →

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In late June, both chambers of Congress introduced their own versions of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill. With Congress in recess for the remainder of August and the current FAA extension expiring at the end of September, it appears increasingly unlikely that either bill will make it to the President’s desk. If Congress is unable to pass a full FAA Reauthorization bill, then it will need to pass an extension. Given the unique needs of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS or drone) industry, the extension could include some of the common elements addressed in both the House and Senate Reauthorization bills. Continue reading →

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On June 22, 2017, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced bi-partisan legislation designed to advance the development of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and build on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) efforts to safely integrate them into the National Airspace System. The Safe Development, Research, and Opportunities Needed for Entrepreneurship Act of 2017, or Safe DRONE Act of 2017, is meant to ensure that the United States is able to keep pace in the development and implementation of unmanned technology. The proposed legislation comes just after UAS industry stakeholders indicated that more regulation would be essential to propelling UAS development forward.

Continue reading →

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faa-logo-291x300The Trump Administration has proposed that Air Traffic Control (ATC) functions be shifted away from the FAA to a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, arguing that the move would allow for increased efficiency particularly in terms of modernization by changing the ATC system from radar-based to satellite-based. If adopted, this plan could accelerate the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drones) into our national airspace system (NAS).

Continue reading →

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On May 19, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued its opinion in John Taylor v. Michael Huerta striking down the Federal Aviation Administration’s Registration Rule, which required the owners of small unmanned aircraft operated for recreational purposes to register with the FAA. (See Registration Rule announcement and full text of the rule.) The Registration Rule was effective on December 21, 2015, but only applied to small unmanned aircraft (UAS) used for hobby or recreation.

Continue reading →

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This week’s news includes drones fighting fires and illegal dumping; new fines for drone usage; new patents by Amazon; and other recent developments in UAV regulations and usage around the globe.

  • Drone pilots acknowledge the need for legislation for UAS flights. (Tamara Chuang, The Denver Post)

  • An sUAS operator is granted a nighttime UAS waiver for inspection and mapping. (The American Surveyor)

  • UAV maker DJI proposes new max weight for lowest-risk category of drone. (International Mining)

  • For the first time, New York City firefighters employ a drone to monitor a dangerous fire. (Bart Jansen, USA Today)

  • North Carolina legislators introduce bill to make it illegal to fly a drone too near a prison. (AP)

  • Community groups in Ireland will use drones to fight illegal dumping. (Ciarán D’Arcy, The Irish Times)

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This week’s UAS news includes a DAC meeting, drones getting into trouble, more ways that drones are impacting existing industries, and other recent developments in UAV regulations and usage.

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The American Bar Association (“ABA”) Forum on Air & Space Law recently launched a committee on Drones: Regulations, Operations and Litigation (“Drone Committee”).  This new committee aims at serving the ABA community and beyond to provide insights on current and upcoming Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) developments and challenges.

Each month, the Drone Committee offers a webinar featuring an expert speaker in the field of drones to discuss a specific UAS law issue, followed by a Q&A session with the audience.  Earl Lawrence, FAA’s Director of UAS Integration Office, and Mark Aitken, Director of Government Relations at AUVSI, already participated in previous Drone Committee webinars.  They discussed, among other topics, the FAA’s next UAS rules and provided a Congressional update on the integration of UAS in the national airspace system.  The Drone Committee is also developing other future programming.

The next Drone Committee webinar is scheduled for March 9, 2017 at 1:00pm EST.  The webinar will feature Diana Marina Cooper, Vice President of Legal & Policy Affairs at PrecisionHawk, a leading UAS manufacturer and provider of airspace management solutions that promote safety and privacy in UAS operations.  Diana will discuss the issue of privacy associated with the use of drones, specifically the current situation regarding privacy, the main challenges, how the industry has responded, and what the future may hold.