Drones

The FAA has been tasked with safely integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system. To fulfill this mandate, the FAA adopted a “phased, incremental, and risk-based approach to rulemaking.” In order for this approach to work, however, the nature of the risk must be known in an exact and quantifiable way.  While this approach provides the most flexibility, it also results in a long and drawn out rulemaking process.
Continue Reading FAA Rulemaking on UAS: Slow, Steady and Risky

We hope you will join us Wednesday, February 20, for the latest in our Aviation Webinar Series.

2019 is shaping up as a critical year for regulatory developments affecting operators of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). In the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, Congress directed the FAA to work faster on setting UAS design standards and opening the airspace to commercial package delivery. Congress also chartered new reports on state and local control of low level airspace and the need for federal privacy laws.
Continue Reading Aviation Webinar Series: Why 2019 May Be The Year of The Drone

In Washington, D.C., the government is still shut down, and is digging out from a weekend storm that dropped a foot of snow.  Neither of these things, however, stopped Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao from unveiling two long-awaited rulemaking efforts that will have a major impact on the future of the unmanned aircraft industry.
Continue Reading FAA/UAS – Drone Regulation Marches Forward!

Today we present an update to our story from last month involving an insurance coverage dispute between a wedding photographer and his insurer.  Unfortunately for the photographer, our predication on how this case would come out was correct.

As you will recall, the photographer in question was sued in state court by a wedding guest who claimed that she lost the sight in one eye after the drone hit her. The photographer had a general liability policy with one million dollars of coverage.  Unfortunately for the photographer, his policy, like most general liability policies, contained an exclusion for accidents arising out of the use of an aircraft, and the insurer denied coverage.  The photographer disagreed with the insurer, arguing that there was coverage because “a drone equipped with a camera is not capable of transporting persons or cargo,” and should be considered “a piece of equipment,” not “an aircraft or vehicle.”  
Continue Reading UAS: Not So Happy Wedding Bells!

On August 28th the Denver Post reported that the Denver Police Department had shelved a consumer-grade drone recently purchased for nearly $3,000 after the administration nixed the crime lab’s plan to use it to photograph crime scenes.  Meanwhile, the Denver Fire Department intends to move forward with plans to purchase an Aeryon SkyRanger to use when dealing with all sorts of incidents, including structure fires, hazardous material spills and rescues. The difference between the failure of one program and the likely success of the other appears to turn on public perception.

This real world example highlights the critically important task of considering the risk or benefit to your reputation or brand as a result of your drone program.  Members of the public often have a visceral, negative reaction to drones. A poorly implemented program can anger customers, industry partners, and the public, thereby tarnishing a well-earned reputation and cause the demise of your program. At the extreme, angry landowners have been known to shoot down drones.  On the other hand, a well implemented program can position you as an industry leader using cutting-edge technology to provide the best, most reliable electric service while ensuring the safety of your employees.
Continue Reading Perception Is Reality

Anyone who operates a regional or nationwide business knows that coping with a patchwork of state and local laws can be challenging. Fortunately, the states also realize that this can be a problem, and will sometimes cooperate to voluntarily establish a “uniform” law.  For example, in 1952, a group of top legal scholars from the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) got together and drafted the Uniform Commercial Code.  This code has been adopted (with some variations) in every state, and has greatly improved predictability for business owners.

Over the past five years, most states have enacted laws regarding the use of unmanned aircraft. These laws vary wildly in what they permit and prohibit.  Right now, however, the NCCUSL is working on solving this problem by creating the uniform Tort Law Relating To Drones Act.  As with the Uniform Commercial Code, the NCCUSL hopes that every state will quickly adopt the Act as the basis for its state drone laws.

Continue Reading Drones: A Uniformly Bad Law

In the wake of the Las Vegas shootings, MGM resorts is facing a barrage of lawsuits by victims claiming that the hotel was negligent in its security procedures.  In an unusual response, the hotel has filed its own lawsuit against the victims.  The MGM lawsuit is asking a court to rule that it is immune from suit because hotel security was handed by a vendor, Contemporary Services Corporation (CSC).  CSC, the hotel argues, has been approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “for protecting against and responding to acts of mass injury and destruction” and, therefore, MGM is absolved from responsibility.

This pending action becomes relevant to the drone industry.  MGM is referring to legal protections provided by the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002, commonly known as “The Safety Act”.  The Safety Act, passed in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is intended to encourage the private sector to develop and implement anti-terrorist technologies by limiting the liability of companies that have such technology approved by DHS.  The act defines anti-terrorist technology broadly to include products, services, equipment, or devices designed, developed, modified, or procured for the purpose of preventing, detecting, identifying, or deterring acts of terrorism or limiting the harm from such attacks.

Continue Reading Why Drone Manufacturers and Service Providers Should Care About the MGM Las Vegas Shooting Law Suit.