Law Enforcement Assistance for the FAA

Goal of FAA Partnership with Local Law Enforcement Agencies:

The FAA values its partnerships with law enforcement agencies (LEAs). By working together, the LEAs can help protect the safety of people on airplanes and on the ground from unsafe and unauthorized unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), “drones”.

LEAs are often in the best position to acquire and make initial requests to identify and preserve electronic or video evidence, or obtain legal process for securing this evidence.

UAS Compliance with Airspace Requirements
As an aircraft, UAS operations must comply with all applicable airspace requirements prescribed by the FAA regulations. It is important that UAS operators and LEAs are familiar with the airspace restrictions relevant to their operations and their enforcement area of responsibility.

FAA’s Primary Focus:
While the FAA’s primary focus is on educating the public, they do take civil administrative enforcement action against uas pilots who operate in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger life or property. The FAA recognizes LEAs are often in the best position to deter, detect, immediately investigate, and, as appropriate, pursue enforcement actions in response to unauthorized or unsafe UAS operators.

While the FAA must exercise caution not to mix criminal law enforcement with the FAA’s civil administrative safety enforcement function, the public interest is best served by coordinating and fostering mutual understanding and cooperation between governmental entities with enforcement responsibilities.

Overview:
The increasing number of cases of unsafe and unauthorized operation of uas is a serious concern for the FAA and many of its interagency partners. To assist LEA;

  1. The legal framework that serves as the basis for FAA legal enforcement action against uas operators for unauthorized and or unsafe uas operations.
  2. Guidance to help Lea deter, detect, and investigate unauthorized and or unsafe uas operations.

Basic Legal Mandates:
The FAA’s safety mandate under 49 U.S.C. 40103 requires it to regulate aircraft operations conducted in the National Airspace System (NAS), which include UAS operations, to protect persons and property on the ground, and to prevent collisions between aircraft or between aircraft and other objects. In addition, 49 U.S.C. 44701(a) requires the agency to promote safe flight of civil aircraft in air commerce by prescribing, among other things, regulations and minimum standards for other practices, methods, and procedures the Administrator finds necessary for safety in air commerce and national security.

An Unmanned Aircraft is Still an Aircraft:
An unmanned aircraft is an “aircraft” as defined in the FAA authorizing statutes, and is therefore subject to regulation by the FAA. The FAA has promulgated regulations that apply to the operation of all aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, irrespective of the altitude at which the aircraft is operating.

Further, state and local governments are enacting their own laws regarding the operation of UAS, which may mean UAS operations may also violate state and local laws specific to UAS operations, as well as broadly applicable laws such as assault, criminal trespass, or injuries to persons or property.

The Role of  Law Enforcement:
The two most critical elements for the FAA to successfully address and unsafe or unauthorized uas operations are 1) Identification of the operator and 2) notification of the event to the FAA. Often the FAA aviation safety inspectors, the agency’s principal field personnel responsible for investigating unauthorized and/or unsafe activities are unable to immediately travel to the location of an incident. 

Although the FAA retains the responsibility for enforcing the FAA’s regulations, LEAs are also currently detering, detecting, investigating, and, as appropriate, pursuing enforcement actions under their existing authorities to stop unauthorized UAS operations. While the FAA must exercise caution not to mix criminal law enforcement with the FAA civil administrative safety enforcement function, the public interest is best served by coordinating and fostering mutual understanding and cooperation between governmental entities with enforcement responsibilities.

D-R-O-N-E
Although certainly not an exhaustive list, law enforcement officials, first responders, etc. can provide assistance to the FAA and deter unsafe and unauthorized UAS operations by taking the actions outlined in the acronym D-R-O-N-E. .

Direct::
Direct attention outward and upward, attempt to locate and identify individuals operating the UAS. Look at windows, balconies, and rooftops. Local law enforcement is in the best position to locate the suspected operator of the aircraft, and any participants or personnel supporting the operations.

Report
Report the incident to the FAA Regional Operations Center. Follow-up assistance can be attained through FAA Law Enforcement Assistance Program special agents. Immediate notification of an incident, accident, or other suspected violation to one in the FAA ROCs, located around the country, is invaluable to the timely initiation of the FAA investigation.

Observe
Observe the UAS while maintaining visibility of the device. Look for damaged property or injured individuals. Local law enforcement is in the best position to identify potential witnesses and conduct initial interviews, documenting what they observed while the event is still fresh in their minds. Additionally, capturing the names and contact information of witnesses to provide the FAA will also be extremely helpful.

Notice:
Notice the features of the UAV. Look to identify the type of device, whether it is fixed wing or multi-rotor, its size, shape, color, what type of video equipment it may have, and the activity of the device. Pictures or video of the UAV’s poor behavior are helpful in determining the time of day and locations plus any damage or injuries that may have occurred.

Execute
Execute appropriate action. Follow your policies and procedures for handling an investigation and securing a safe environment for the public and first responders. It must be noted, any investigations conducted by LEAs should be in accordance with local or state authorities, as the FAA’s statutes and regulations do not permit their as a basis for LEAs to conduct investigations

Summary:
State and local officials are urged to use their governmental units legal resources, and their own management chain, to develop acceptable protocols for dealing with these instances. However, with appropriate data collection during first responses, and early reporting to the FAA, federal, state, and local agencies will be in the best position to collect and share information of interest to each jurisdiction.

If you need help from an UAS attorney then contact the Dunaway Law Group at 480-389-6529 or by email at office@dunawaylg.com.

FAA Drone Registration

This blogpost will clearly explain the process of how to register your drone with the Federal Aviation Association. The FAA has actually made the process of registering drone a rather smooth and simple process.

Why is Drone Registration Necessary?

Plain and simple the FAA wants drones registered to increase the safety of people both in the air and on the ground. With more than 1 million drones registered with the FAA they have their hands full trying to keep people safe.

“Registration is all about safety,” says FAA spokesperson Jim Peters. “It provides us with a key opportunity to educate the new generation of airspace users that as soon as they start flying outside, they’re pilots. There are safety implications to how they fly, and there are rules and regulations they must follow. When necessary, registration will help us track down people who operate unsafely.”

Drone Pilots Will be Held Accountable for their Actions

There are countless examples of people flying their drones dangerously close to other aircraft and restricted areas. Drones have interfered with:

  • Commercial airplanes,
  • Planes and helicopters in the process of fighting wildfires.
  • One drone even landed on the lawn of the White House.

The FAA sees the registration process as an important stepping-stone to a clear, long-term policy making drones safer for everyone.

What are the Penalties for NOT Registering a Drone? 

It’s difficult for the FAA to enforce these penalties but the fines are steep. 

  • Civil penalties can reach $27,500!
  • Criminal penalties can cost you as much as $250,000 and three years in prison!

So Who Needs to Register their Drone?

Registering once gives recreational pilots a registration number, akin to a driver’s license number. The recreation drone registration number applies to any drone that you may own and is good for three years. After the registration number expires then you will simply go through the registration process again.

When you buy another drone you’re not required to go through the registration process again because the registration number is for the person and not the drone itself. 

Who Does NOT Need to Register their Drone?

  • If your drone weighs less than 0.55 pounds.
  • If you’re only going to fly your drone indoors.
  • If your drone weighs more than 55 pounds you’ll go through a different registration process.
  • If you’re using your drone for commercial purposes—which means you’re using your drone to make money then you need to go through a different more cumbersome registration process.

How to Register Your Drone

You’ll register your drone through the FAA’s website at faadronezone.faa.gov. The FAA website makes the registration process very simple.

You’ll also get a registration certificate emailed to you, which you’ll need to print out (or keep handy on your mobile device) and have with you when flying. Once your drone is officially registered you are cleared for takeoff!

Placing the Registration Number on Your Drone

You must then place the registration number on the Exterior of your Drone. It must be visible on the exterior of the drone without having to remove any parts to view the registration number.

If you have questions about FAA registration compliance then contact the Dunaway Law Group at 480-389-6529 or send us a message HERE.

FAA Part 137 Exemption

  1. Airworthiness: You must prove to the FAA that your UAV is safe or “airworthy”.
  2. Pilot Skills: The FAA will closely look to see the skills of the pilot who is actually doing the flying.
  3. Chemical Handling: Pilot must prove to the state that they are competent to handle dangerous chemicals.

Once a company and/or pilot has met the above three requirements then they are able to apply for the FAA Part 137 Exemption.

A person and company must also then apply for an FAA Part 107 Exemption to receive a waiver from certain rules that apply to the typical manned agricultural spraying planes.

Let us help you apply for an FAA Part 137 exemption by contacting attorney Clint Dunaway at 480-389-6529 or email at office@dunawaylg.com.