Drone Law

Representing UAS Operators and Businesses
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The accessibility of drones to the consumer and commercial marketplaces effectuate an opportunity for innovation in a wide range of commercial applications.

Drones have arrived. Mudd Law provides representation to individuals and businesses seeking to use drones in a wide variety of consumer and commercial contexts. Until recently, the regulation of drones - or unmanned aircraft systems ("UAS") - seemed non-existent. However, with the increase of drones and their impact on existing airspace, the federal government and many local governments have responded with requirements directed toward consumer and commercial drones.

To begin with, any drone falling within the weight class of .55 lbs and 55 lbs must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"). For certain drones and operators, the FAA has made this process relatively straightforward and avaiable online.

Further, the FAA has implemented its final regulations on commercial drone use. To operate a drone for commercial purpose, an operator must obtain a drone pilot license.

Should the intended commercial use of the drone fall within applicable criteria, the FAA allows commercial use without any exemption process (the former Section 333 exemption process is no longer applicable). Should the intended commercial use of drones fall outside the applicable criteria, the commercial operator must obtain an exemption under applicable rules (currently, Rule 107).

Beyond registering drones, obtaining a drone pilot license, and ensuring compliance with applicable criteria or obtaining an exemption, any drone operator must also consider any local and state regulation of the physical space in which one intends to fly a drone (parks, beaches, over buildings, etc.).

Our drone lawyers will work with drone operators to ensure compliance with federal and local regulations. Where necessary, our drone attorneys can work with commercial operators to obtain exemotions where necessary. Further, we work with municipalities in guiding the drafting and implementation of drone laws.

Beyond general compliance, there will be issues that arise in any number of contexts that will require consultation with drone attorneys. Whether it involve privacy of those being filmed, entry into private property, intellectual property of the matter filmed, liability for injuries, or other issues, our firm provides our clients with consultation and representation.

Registration of drones will avoid penalties, arguably limit potential liability, and help ensure the safety of our shared airspace.

Any drone or UAS exceeding .55 lbs must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration. For drones weighing between .55 lbs and 55 lbs operated by an individual for non-commercial purposes in the United States, the FAA has made registration straightforward. An individual can register such drone online with an application fee of $5.00. The registration will be valid for a period of three (3) years.

Should a drone or drone operator not fall clearly within the foregoing specific parameters (.55 lbs to 55 lbs; individual; non-commercial use), advice should be obtained from lawyers familiar with drone law to determine whether the online process can be used. Where it cannot be used, a specific application must be submitted to the FAA. While this may change in mid-2016 for certain drone operators, this change has not yet occurred.
At present, a business or anyone who intends to operate a drone for commercial purposes must complete a specific application and submit to the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch. For purposes of the application, detailed information will be required about the drone, ownership of the drone, domestication of the drone, and other related criteria. The application fee remains the same across the weight of the UAS and ownership.

The FAA requires registration of a drone whether a person obtains it new or used. When a person obtains a used drone, the person must still register the drone even if it has been previously registered. For this reason, and the required documentation relating to transfer of ownership, it becomes important for any transfer of a drone or UAS to be adequately documented.

Our team can efficiently submit registration applications for drones online or through the written application process. Additionally, we can guide our clients in sufficiently documenting transfer of ownership to avoid any issues with later registration of commercially sold or used drones.

FAA regulations have eased the requirements for commercial peration of a drone.

Where the intended commercial use of a drone falls within the standard applicable criteria, commercial use of drones will be permissible without the need for an exemption from the FAA. In these situations, the primary requirements for lawful use of a drone for commercial purposes will be registration of drones, obtaining a drone pilot license or use a drone operator with a drone pilot license, and compliance with all applicable laws.

In situations where the commercial use falls outside the standard applicable criteria, a commercial operator must obtain an exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA").

In both situations, our drone lawyers can help ensure lawful use of drones for commercial purposes.
Beyond federal requirements, non-federal government entities may enact laws that impact the use of drone operations. Any operator of drones - whether for commercial or personal uses - must understand and comply with the applicable laws. This will ensure lawful business operations and public safety.

In addition to compliance with drone laws, a commercial operator of a drone should ensure that all internal procedures and methods have been implemented. For example, this may involve the development and implementation of policies for employees.

Where drafting drone ordinances, municipalities must understand the constraints imposed by federal regulation of airspace and consider the balance between competing interests.

Municipalities and other non-federal governmental organizations can enact and implement laws impacting the use of drones in their geographic boundaries. At the outset, the government bodies must understand the constraints placed upon any regulation of airspace. Specifically, the federal government possesses exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the national airspace. That being said, non-federal governments can implement laws that affect the use of the airspace within their geographic boundaries. Our understanding of these issues and parameters enable us to assist your government entity to draft enforceable laws to maintain the safety of your community.

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