Legal Waypoints for hiring a Drone

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could get a drone to take a photo or video of our [you fill in the blank: construction project; outdoor wedding; home for sale; public concert; football game; cell tower; farm field …].”  A quick search online finds several local drone operators claiming they are ready, willing, and able to meet your needs.  Sounds easy enough, but here are some questions you should be asking before you hire a drone operator:

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Cyber Risk – Are your crown jewels safe?

Question #1: How long would it take for someone to download critical data from a repair station computer onto a small thumb drive, put it in their pocket, and walk right out the door?  Best guess for even a novice hack – probably a minute or less.

Question #2: How long would it take to detect the incident, or even investigate the scope of the loss?  Probably days of IT, legal and management time and effort – if you even notice the breach at all.

Question #3: How long will it take to recover from this type of incident?  Getting back to normal will likely take months and the damages could accrue for years into the future.

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FAA streamlines UAS flight – bridge to new rules

Life for UAS operators just got a bit easier.  The FAA has issued a bridge between the current cumbersome system of Section 333 exemptions with airspace block specific Certificates of Authority (COAs) and the eventual final form of the recently released “new rules” that are still in the comment period.

The interim policy does not tract the technical parameters of the proposed new rules.  Instead the bridge seeks to grant a blanket COA for UAS operators who have a valid exemption under Section 333 so that the operator no longer needs an individual COA for a specific block of airspace.  The blanket COA will have more restrictive technical parameters than the proposed new rules.

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FAA’s Proposed UAS Rules – a missed opportunity.

The FAA issued the much awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems on February 15, 2015.  The proposed rules are described by the trade associations and other industry commentators as “flexible”, “a good first step”, and “lenient”.  This is mostly good news for those seeking to use drones in a commercial setting – keeping in mind the rules are just proposed at this time and are not currently in force.  Today you still cannot fly a drone for commercial use without an FAA exemption.  So far the FAA has granted only 24 Section 333 exemptions from a total of 342 application requests.

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PRODUCT RECALL – how would you survive?

“We need to do a product recall.” Whether you are a large OEM, or one of its Tier 1 or lower suppliers, the words “product recall”, signal an unexpected and often uncontrollable liability exposure. For the OEM this exposure is comprised of the direct cost of the recall plus the loss of company goodwill, loss of use of the product by upset end-users, and perhaps a precipitating traditional bodily injury or property damage claim. Product recalls are a significant financial risk for all OEM’s – witness the recent flurry of automaker recalls. For the supplier who provided a defective part or component, the results can be more devastating. Typically there is just not enough profit margin in the supply of a part or component to cover the risks of a recall. Unlike a standard warranty claim remedy, the supplier not only has the obligation to repair or replace the defective part or component, but will likely be saddled with the costs of removal and reinstallation plus the other direct and indirect recall costs incurred by the OEM and end-user. This exposure could be a terminal financial blow for many part and component manufacturers.

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Accountable Manager – 14 CFR part 145

Acting in an official capacity on behalf of a certificated repair station is a serious matter.  Improper use of authority can result in violations of the law that risk assessments of civil and/or criminal penalties – notwithstanding the real possibility that aviation safety may be compromised in the process.  Understanding the sources and limits on your authority can aid in reducing the chance for unintended violations. Take a few minutes to check your authority and refresh your understanding of your role and obligations.

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