The ABA Presents: Air & Space Catalog

Drones Across America, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Regulation and State Laws

The popularity of drones (Unmanned Aircraft Systems – UAS) and drone technology is the United States has excited entrepreneurs and corporations, while sending lawmakers scrambling to keep pace with the industry’s growth.  This comprehensive book lays out a framework for demystifying the sometimes unwieldy and ever-changing changing area of federal and state drone laws.


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Steer Clear from Military Bases if You Want to Keep Your Drone (and Yourself) Out of Trouble

There has been a growing security concern posed by drones, especially in light of increased use by both private citizens and companies. With the aim of keeping personnel and equipment safe in connection with its domestic military bases, the Pentagon recently issued classified rules that provide guidance to the U.S. military on how to deal with private and commercial drones that are found flying over or around its domestic military bases.

During the drafting process of the rules, the Pentagon consulted with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to determine how best to deal with drones. Although the specifics of the rules are classified, the rules generally allow for a variety of different responses to drones including tracking, disabling, and destroying the drones. The response may depend on the circumstances as well as the installation the drone is spotted near (i.e. the drones may even be seized afterwards for use in subsequent investigations). Further, the military already has several options in place such as using traditional ammunition to disable or destroy the drones as well as relying on radio waves to commandeer the drones from their operators.

However, the drones may not be the only things targeted if found operating near military bases. Back in April of this year, the Pentagon and the FAA announced a rule that prohibited drone flights near various domestic military bases. Although the previous rule regarding drones did not indicate that the drones would be specifically targeted by the military, it did state that pilots caught violating the restriction would be subject to arrest. The Pentagon has indicated that it will support civilian law enforcement investigations and the prosecution of unauthorized drone operations over military installations. Violators could potentially face fines or jail time.

For reference, a map can be found on the FAA website that provides information for the general public regarding areas and altitudes where drones can be operated safely. The map also highlights the various restricted airspace in connection with the domestic military bases.

This post was written by Thomas Nguyen of Polsinelli LLP in California © Polsinelli PC

For more legal analysis go to The National Law Review

Three Things Commercial Drone Operators Need to Know Regarding the FAA’s Proposed Rules

Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP

In a long anticipated move, on February 15, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued proposed rules that are intended to permit the commercial operation of small unmanned aircraft, commonly referred to as “drones.”

Safety is Key

The proposed rules attempt to balance the risk to public safety while providing a regulatory framework that is reasonably (but not overly) burdensome to the industry to avoid stifling advances in technology and economic competitiveness.  The FAA addresses safety in a number of ways, but most obviously by limiting the weight of the drone, limiting the manner of its operation, and by placing restrictions on the people flying the drone. By providing a regulatory path for at least some commercial operations, the proposed rules help those in the industry avoid uncertainty and substantial costs associated with requesting an FAA exemption or special airworthiness certificate.

Only Small Drones Would Have the Green Light 

Under the proposed rules, commercial operators of a small drone (weighing less than 55 pounds) must not fly higher than 500 feet above ground level, faster than 100 mph, over people who are not directly involved in the operation, at night, or when weather visibility is less than 3 miles.  A small drone must undergo a preflight inspection before use, though FAA airworthiness certification would not be required. With some modifications due to its size, small drones nevertheless would be subject to the same aircraft marking and registration requirements that are applicable to manned aircraft.  And although the drone must remain within the visual line-of-sight of the operator at all times, to meet the needs of commercial operators where limited risk to people or property would be incurred, this requirement may be met by also deploying a visual observer, perhaps in radio contact with the operator, to assist the operator to maintain visual contact with the small drone in place of the operator.

Operators (“Pilots”) of Drones Must Meet Minimum Requirements

To establish at least a reasonable degree of uniformity across all potential commercial uses permitted under the rules and to minimize national security risks within the borders of the U.S., commercial operators of small drones must:

Be at least 17 years old;

Pass an initial and recurrent aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge test center;

Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA);

Obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) type rating,

Make available to the FAA the small unmanned aircraft for inspection/testing; and

Report an accident within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage.

To be sure, winners and losers will exist on both sides of the proposed rules.  While crop monitoring, research uses, educational/academic uses, powerline/antenna/bridge inspections, aerial photography, wildlife tracking, and rescue operations may be more easily accommodated under the proposed rules, other commercial uses will remain in the cold, such as anything requiring use of a drone heavier than 55 pounds at takeoff, flights higher than 500 feet, faster than 100 mph, or at distances or under conditions where the operator or visual observer cannot maintain visual line-of-sight with the drone.  Until the FAA obtains data sufficient to warrant expansion of these rules, those who wish to operate a drone outside the proposed rules have the option of pursuing either an FAA exemption or a special airworthiness certificate.