Even with the rapid growth of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or drones, one of the FAA’s primary rules is that the pilot must maintain visual line of sight with the unmanned aircraft at all times. When waivers were granted for “extended line of sight” operations, visual observers on the ground were still required. Those operational constraints are about to change.

Collaborative projects between private industry and the Universities of Alaska-Fairbanks and Hawaii are transforming dreams into reality for the unmanned aircraft community. These technological accomplishments are laying the foundations to provide vital services to rural and outlying communities through long-distance search and rescue, surveying and telecommunications platforms mounted onboard solar powered drones.Continue Reading Important Milestones Are Being Met in Alaska and Hawaii for Unmanned Aircraft Systems

The proverbial hacksaw inside a prisoner’s birthday cake has been supplanted by a new technological trend for bringing contraband into the jailhouse – Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”). As early as 2015, a fight broke out at the Mansfield Correctional Institution in Ohio when a drone carrying tobacco, marijuana, and heroin crashed into a yard inside the facility. That same year, a drone trafficking hacksaw blades, a cellphone, and Super Glue crashed into a maximum security prison in Oklahoma. Similar plots have been attempted in more than a dozen states nationwide, leading states like North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas to ban drone flights over correctional facilities. Perhaps to save us from another pre-emption fight over UAS operational restrictions, the federal government is now following suit.
Continue Reading FAA Adds to No-Fly Zones for Drones After Prisoners Smuggle Drugs, Weapons Through the Skies

On March 9, 2016, the Senate introduced the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016 (S. 2658), and it contains the following provisions related to unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS”) regulation and consumer protection:

  • Directs the FAA to develop an online knowledge and safety test which operators of UAS must pass before flying.
  • Directs the FAA and NASA to develop a pilot program for a UAS traffic management system, with 6 test sites.
  • Directs both the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Comptroller General to develop a report on UAS privacy best-practices.
  • Creates a new commercial and governmental UAS registration database.
  • Creates a civil penalty of up to $20,000 to operate UAS in a way which interferes with firefighting, law enforcement, or emergency response activities.

Continue Reading Senate FAA Reauthorization Bill Focuses on Drone Regulations

On February 11, 2016, H.R. 4441 – the Aircraft Innovation Reform and Reauthorization Act (“AIRR Act”) passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (“T&I Committee”). According to T&I Committee chairman, Representative Bill Shuster, “[t]he committee considered approximately 75 amendments during today’s meeting and more than half of them were approved.” Of the amendments

On February 3, 2016, Representatives Bill Schuster of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2016 (“AIRR Act”).  The AIRR Act is a six year re-authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) and addresses, for example, reforms to air traffic control, FAA’s certification processes, and funding for airport infrastructure.  The full text of the AIRR Act can be found here, and a summary prepared by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee can be found here.  Importantly, the AIRR Act also contains a number of proposed reforms to facilitate the greater introduction of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) into the national air-space system. 
Continue Reading FAA Reauthorization Bill Introduced in House

On June 17, 2015, United States Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Dean Heller (R-NV), introduced a new piece of legislation, entitled Protecting Individuals From Mass Aerial Surveillance Act of 2015. Specifically, the Act would prohibit Federal entities from using Mobile Aerial-View Devices (“MAVD”), which includes manned and unmanned systems, “to surveil property, persons or their effects, or gather evidence or other information pertaining to known or suspected criminal conduct, or conduct that is in violation of a statute or regulation.” Importantly, the Act contains a number of exceptions – a Federal entity may use a MAVD:
Continue Reading Legislation Introduced to Address UAS Related Privacy Concerns

Husch Blackwell’s Tom Gemmell submitted a paper abstract and proposal (“Effect of FAA’s Guidance for Exemption Petitions”) for a presentation and round table discussion at AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems 2015 conference in May 2015.

Because AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International) received hundreds of proposals, it’s holding an online community vote this week.

To vote

Without taking a position regarding the merits of any of the petitions for exemption that seven aerial photo and video production companies submitted to the FAA last month, Husch Blackwell LLP voiced its support for the exemption process to permit commercial operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).  In response to the FAA’s request for comment, Husch Blackwell noted in its submission (submitted by Co-Chairs of the firm’s UAS team Tom Gemmell and David Agee, with assistance by Amanda Tummons) to the FAA’s Notice that while there are legitimate concerns regarding the use of UAS, the technology is here to stay and it should be allowed when commercial businesses can demonstrate parameters to ensure safe operations.
Continue Reading Husch Blackwell Comments in Support of Section 333 Petitions for Safe Commercial Use of Unmanned Aircraft

While pressure mounts for the FAA to issue regulations to incorporate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into national airspace systems and the challenges to the FAA’s current positions on UAS are in judicial limbo [see Commercial Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems? Are they legal? and FAA Faces Recent Challenges Over Restrictions on Operation of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)] the FAA continues to move forward with the mandates set forth in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
Continue Reading Second UAS Test Site Operational