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Heyl Royster

 

Practices

DRONE LAW

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Heyl Royster’s Drone Law Practice handles matters arising from the complex legal environment associated with the commercial, municipal and recreational use of unmanned drone aircraft. Formally referred to as “Unmanned Aircraft Systems” (UAS), drones are the subject of intense public attention for their seemingly limitless potential. As UAS use continues to expand rapidly, their presence in the national airspace is introducing new questions—and dangers—to be addressed by regulators, legislators and courts.

Commercial drone use, which was previously prohibited without a special exemption, is now authorized by the FAA’s new Small UAS Rule (Part 107).  Anyone interested in obtaining a Part 107 “remote pilot certification” must be at least 16 years of age, successfully complete a Transportation Security Administration background screening, and pass an FAA-administered aeronautical knowledge test. 

The recreational use of drones is generally permitted through Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which allows hobbyists many of the traditional freedoms afforded model aircraft enthusiasts. Recreational drone users with aircraft weighing between .55 lbs. and 55 lbs. must register their aircraft through a dedicated FAA web site.

In this rapidly evolving environment, the need for UAS-related legal assistance is increasing. The technical issues unique to drone litigation are not familiar to most lawyers. Factors relating to aerodynamics, lift, thrust, weather conditions, flight control software, radio frequency interference, and battery charge duration can all be crucial in determining why and how a particular incident occurred. The attorneys in Heyl Royster’s Drone Law Practice understand these issues and bring a valuable perspective to this growing area of the law. They include attorneys with experience in piloting civil aircraft, consulting on military aviation programs, authoring numerous aviation publications, and litigating complex commercial, regulatory and insurance coverage-related lawsuits in state and federal court.

Some of our drone-related services include:

  • Advising individuals, businesses, and local governments as to applicable FAA regulations.
  • Advising individuals seeking to form a drone-based LLC or corporation.
  • Defending drone-related personal injury and property damage claims.
  • Defending civil rights claims predicated upon alleged constitutional violations facilitated through drone use.
  • Prosecuting or defending contract disputes involving drone services.
  • Advising insurers as to coverage questions relating to drone use and misuse.
  • Defending businesses, governmental units, and individual clients against FAA enforcement actions.
  • Defending product liability actions against drone manufacturers or retailers.
  • Acting as co-counsel for intellectual property and patent infringement claims.

Publications

  • "Federal Court of Appeals Strikes Down FAA’s Registration Rule Governing Recreational Drones," Heyl Royster News (2017) - Read Article
  • “Is This Really Happening? The Emerging Use of Drones for Commercial Purposes,” Skywritings, The Newsletter of the Aviation Law Committee of the Defense Research Institute (2016) - Download Article
  • "Attack of the Drones: Small Unmanned Aircraft Claims Are on Their Way," Illinois Defense Counsel Quarterly (2015) - Download Article