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On August 17, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), and the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) issued a joint interagency advisory on the use of technology to detect and mitigate unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS” or “drones”) by non-federal public and private entities. The disabling or destruction of a drone through physical force or electronic interference (such as jamming) is a federal crime. The joint advisory provides an overview of the federal laws and regulations that apply to various UAS detection and mitigation measures, which include not only criminal statutes enforced by DOJ, but also a range of laws and regulations administered by the FAA, FCC, and DHS. As detailed in the joint advisory, the use of technology to track and monitor UAS may have numerous legal consequences, even when no action is taken to disable or interfere with a UAS. Accordingly,…

On July 24, 2020, the Trump Administration announced a new policy (the “Updated UAS Policy”) on exports of US-origin unmanned aerial systems (“UAS”), also known as “drones.” The Updated UAS Policy follows the Trump Administration’s UAS policy reforms announced in April 2018 (“April 2018 UAS Export Policy”), which allowed exports of certain US-origin armed and unarmed UAS to occur via direct sales between US companies and foreign end users. Our previous blog post on the April 2018 UAS Export Policy is available here. The Updated UAS Policy does not change UAS export licensing requirements under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations or the Export Administration Regulations, but does remove a major restriction on exports of US-origin UAS. The Trump Administration’s new policy comes at a time when the UAS regulatory climate is undergoing rapid transformation. As previously discussed on Baker McKenzie’s UAS Insights blog, the Federal Aviation Administration is in…

The U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has issued guidance for the use of counter-unmanned aircraft systems (“C-UAS”) actions by federal law enforcement agencies, which are authorized by the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018 (the “Act”).  The guidance establishes a process for the federal government to select facilities and assets that warrant protection with C-UAS technology, and sets forth the types of C-UAS actions that may be authorized.  UAS operators should stay apprised of these developments to ensure that their operations remain lawful and do not trigger C-UAS actions in response, and should look for opportunities to help shape C-UAS policies going forward. Under the Act, codified at 6 U.S.C. § 124n, the U.S. Attorney General may authorize federal law enforcement agencies to take certain actions to mitigate threats posed by UAS to particular assets or facilities identified by federal law enforcement agencies.  Id. § 124n(a).   To be covered under the Act,…

Last month, the Mexican Ministry of Communications and Transport (Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes) (“SCT”) published a Mexican Official Standard (“NOM-107”) establishing requirements to operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (“RPAS” – also known as “UAS” or “drones”) in Mexican air space.  NOM-107 classifies RPAS into different categories based on their maximum take-off weight. Regardless of their classification, RPAS may be operated for (a) recreational, (b) private non-commercial, and (c) commercial use. Operators are required to comply with certain requirements depending on the classification and use of the RPAS.  In general terms, all RPAS must be registered before the recently created Federal Civil Aviation Agency (Agencia Federal de Aviación Civil) (“AFAC”), which is charged with enforcing the guidelines to operate RPAS. RPAS used for private non-commercial and commercial purposes must carry civil liability insurance. NOM-107 regulates RPAS for private non-commercial and commercial use differently from RPAS for recreational use. In this…

The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) announced last week that it received approval from the FAA to conduct test flights with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, or drones) at Wichita’s Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (ICT). KDOT will incorporate UAS to assist with obstruction analysis, foreign object detection, wildlife hazard management, and airfield emergency response. The UAS operations are part of the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program, which is intended to accelerate the integration of UAS technology. KDOT is one of ten state and local government entities across the country selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to participate in the program. Between 2019 and 2021, participants in the program will collect data on advanced types of UAS operations that now require special authorization, such as operations over people, nighttime operations, and package deliveries. This data will aid the DOT and FAA in developing new rules to support more complex…

In a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued on February 15, 2019, the FAA added more defense-related locations and correctional facilities to the growing list of No-Drone Zones.  The additional No-Drone Zones were requested by the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense and become effective on February 26th.  A list of the new locations is available in FAA’s Press Release, available here, and all No-Drone Zones can be identified in FAA’s UAS Data Display System map online or in FAA’s B4UFLY mobile app. Drone security has become a priority at the FAA.  This month, the FAA released an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) regarding the Safe and Secure Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, seeking public comments on operational requirements and limitations in Part 107 to reduce unanticipated safety and security risks.  Specifically, the FAA is looking for input regarding stand-off distances; altitude, airspeed, and other performance limitations; unmanned…

On Tuesday, the FAA posted an update in anticipation of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas this week, available here.   Today, the FAA issued an informational press release to drone operators for Hurricane Florence, available here. In addition to storm-related information for commercial airline travelers and Air Traffic Control impacts, the FAA warns drone operators that interfering with emergency responses may result in fines exceeding $20,000 and civil penalties.  Although drone operators should heed FAA’s warning for safety and compliance reasons, drones can also be an important resource during disaster recovery. Opportunities for drones to help in the recovery of Hurricane Florence will include, among others: Search and rescue operations by local authorities; Insurance assessments for private property damage; and Infrastructure damage assessments. However, the proliferation of drones for recreational and commercial purposes has also posed a challenge to emergency response operations.  The presence of a drone can…

Yesterday, the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) published details of the new Unmanned Aircraft System (“UAS” or “drone”) Integration Pilot Program (“Program”) in the Federal Register. The White Office of Science and Technology Policy launched this Program to  encourage State, local, and tribal governments to collaborate with private industry on innovative UAS operations.  The Program is the most significant change in UAS regulation by the Trump Administration and could lead to unprecedented opportunities for companies to test drone applications that were previously restricted.  

But time is of the essence—communities and companies must move quickly to avail themselves of the new UAS opportunities. We encourage any interested parties to begin developing a plan and submit a Notice of Intent with the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) in the coming weeks. Details of the Program are explained below and are available in the Federal Register Notice.

The White House unveiled a highly anticipated Drone Integration Pilot Program (“Program”) that will allow state and local government to test different models for low-altitude regulation of drones, also known as unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS”).  The Program represents a significant break from the Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA”) previous position to discourage state and local government involvement in most aspects of UAS operations and is designed to encourage private entities to undertake innovative UAS testing in the United States, such as drone package delivery.  It will create more opportunities for cutting-edge commercial UAS flights for communities and operators, but the FAA and commercial aviation will likely continue to resist expanded operations that pose safety risks, including flights near airports.

Earlier this month, a small commercial airplane collided with an unmanned aircraft system (“UAS” or drone) during its final descent into Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City, Canada.  After numerous near-misses, this was the first confirmed collision between a drone and a commercial aircraft in North America.  The incident has renewed UAS safety and enforcement concerns, but also highlights opportunities and tools necessary to further improve the system.