Firm helps client fly its drone legally
Recently, one of the firm’s clients wanted to use a drone (unmanned aerial system or UAS) for aerial mapping and surveying, but that activity involves complying with numerous federal laws and regulations. Lanier Ford attorney Jonathan Mayhall assisted the firm’s client in complying with the laws and regulations, and the client has received permission to use its drone for these purposes.
Under federal law, a UAS qualifies as an aircraft and therefore falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The commercial operation of a small UAS must comply with Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs), which currently make no distinction between manned and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Under § 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, someone can use a small UAS for commercial purposes, but unfortunately the FAA hadn’t issued its final regulations for this purpose when the client wanted to use its drone. But as provided by the act, the FAA can consider requests on a case-by-case basis. So getting permission for the firm’s client required Mr. Mayhall to prepare special documentation for an exception from the current FARs that are really designed to regulate manned aerial vehicles.
Incidentally, the FAA has still not issued its final rules for commercial uses of drones. And the regulations governing the noncommercial (hobby) operation of drones (or small model airplanes) are generally less stringent than those governing commercial drones.