Sarah Nilsson JD, PhD, MAS
Sarah NilssonJD, PhD, MAS

18 USC §40A. Operation of unauthorized unmanned aircraft over wildfires

(a) In General. -Except as provided in subsection (b), an individual who operates an unmanned aircraft and knowingly or recklessly interferes with a wildfire suppression, or law enforcement or emergency response efforts related to a wildfire suppression, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for not more than 2 years, or both.

(b) Exceptions. -This section does not apply to the operation of an unmanned aircraft conducted by a unit or agency of the United States Government or of a State, tribal, or local government (including any individual conducting such operation pursuant to a contract or other agreement entered into with the unit or agency) for the purpose of protecting the public safety and welfare, including firefighting, law enforcement, or emergency response.

(c) Definitions. -In this section, the following definitions apply:

(1) Unmanned aircraft. -The term "unmanned aircraft" has the meaning given the term in section 44801 of title 49, United States Code.

(2) Wildfire. -The term "wildfire" has the meaning given that term in section 2 of the Emergency Wildfire Suppression Act (42 U.S.C. 1856m).

(3) Wildfire suppression. -The term "wildfire suppression" means an effort to contain, extinguish, or suppress a wildfire.

(Added Pub. L. 115–254, div. B, title III, §382(a), Oct. 5, 2018, 132 Stat. 3320 .)

The Department of Justice (DOJ) could impose a civil penalty of up to $20,000 for drone operators interfering with law enforcement or emergency response efforts.



Drone Operator Documents

Drone operators flying in the NAS are required to show certain documents to law enforcement, the NTSB, the TSA, and the FAA upon request. The rules governing the particular flight and the official making the request determine what documents a drone pilot must present.

recreational flyer operating in accordance with 49 USC § 44809 is required to show their drone registration and proof of TRUST completion to law enforcement upon request. These requirements are listed in 49 USC § 44809 paragraphs (a)(7) and (a)(8). They are not required to show photo identification or airspace authorization to law enforcement. 

A remote pilot operating in accordance with 14 CFR part 107 must provide their remote pilot certificate, drone registration, and photo identification upon request from law enforcement. These requirements are listed in 14 CFR §107.7.  



18 USC 39B: Unsafe operation of unmanned aircraft

(a) Offense. -Any person who operates an unmanned aircraft and:

(1) Knowingly interferes with, or disrupts the operation of, an aircraft carrying 1 or more occupants operating in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, in a manner that poses an imminent safety hazard to such occupants, shall be punished as provided in subsection (c).

(2) Recklessly interferes with, or disrupts the operation of, an aircraft carrying 1 or more occupants operating in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, in a manner that poses an imminent safety hazard to such occupants, shall be punished as provided in subsection (c).

(b) Operation of Unmanned Aircraft in Close Proximity to Airports.-

(1) In general.-Any person who, without authorization, knowingly operates an unmanned aircraft within a runway exclusion zone shall be punished as provided in subsection (c).

(2) Runway exclusion zone defined.-In this subsection, the term "runway exclusion zone" means a rectangular area-

(A) centered on the centerline of an active runway of an airport immediately around which the airspace is designated as class B, class C, or class D airspace at the surface under part 71 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations; and

(B) the length of which extends parallel to the runway's centerline to points that are 1 statute mile from each end of the runway and the width of which is ½ statute mile.

(c) Penalty.-

(1) In general.-Except as provided in paragraph (2), the punishment for an offense under subsections 1 (a) or (b) shall be a fine under this title, imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or both.

(2) Serious bodily injury or death.-Any person who:

(A) Causes serious bodily injury or death during the commission of an offense under subsection (a)(2) shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for a term of up to 10 years, or both.

(B) Causes, or attempts or conspires to cause, serious bodily injury or death during the commission of an offense under subsections (a)(1) and (b) shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both.

(Added Pub. L. 115–254, div. B, title III, §384(a), Oct. 5, 2018, 132 Stat. 3322 .)

1 So in original. Probably should be "subsection".



3-10-2021 - Operation of Small UAS Over People

The final rule allows routine operations over people and routine operations at night under certain circumstances. The rule will eliminate the need for typical operations to receive individual part 107 certificate of waivers from the FAA.

The rule was published in the Federal Register on January 15, 2021. Corrections to the final rule were published in the Federal Register on March 10, 2021 delaying the effective date from March 16, 2021 to April 21, 2021.

Executive Summary




12-28-2020 - Remote ID Final Rule - Operations Over People final rule - 

Night Operations final rule - Testing changes




Definition of a vehicle (from OOP Final Rule Page 89)

For the purpose of this rule, the Agency considers a vehicle to be any means of transportation, regardless of whether it is motorized. For example, cars, trucks, buses, trains, motorcycles, scooters, and rollercoasters are all vehicles. In addition, non-motorized means of transportation such as bicycles would also be considered vehicles because they have the potential to move at speeds the Agency did not contemplate when establishing the requirements for operations over people. Watercraft such as sightseeing vessels, motorboats, and personal watercraft are also vehicles for the purpose of this rule.

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4-30-2020 - Relief for Certain Persons and Operations During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak

This Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) provides regulatory relief to persons who have been unable to comply with certain training, recent experience, testing, and checking requirements due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. This relief allows operators to continue to use pilots and other crewmembers in support of essential operations during this period. Additionally, this SFAR provides regulatory relief to certain persons and pilot schools unable to meet duration and renewal requirements due to the outbreak. This rule also allows certain air carriers and operators to fly temporary overflow aircraft, a need resulting from the outbreak, to a point of storage pursuant to a special flight permit with a continuing authorization.

Effective April 30, 2020 through March 31, 2021.



12-26-2019 - U.S. Department of Transportation issues Proposed Rule on Remote ID for Drones

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today (December 26, 2019) announced a proposed rule that would continue the safe integration of UAS, commonly called drones, into the nation’s airspace by requiring them to be identifiable remotely.

“Remote ID technologies will enhance safety and security by allowing the FAA, law enforcement, and Federal security agencies to identify drones flying in their jurisdiction,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The FAA will seek input on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Remote Identification (Remote ID) of UAS that today was placed on display at the Federal Register.  In the coming days, it will be accompanied by a 60-day comment period to receive public feedback and help the FAA develop a final rule to enhance safety in the skies over the U.S.

“As a pilot, my eye is always on safety first,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “Safety is a joint responsibility between government, pilots, the drone community, the general public and many others who make our nation so creative and innovative.”

Drones are a fast-growing segment of the entire transportation sector – nearly 1.5 million drones and 160,000 remote pilots are registered with the FAA. Equipping drones with remote identification technologies would build on previous steps taken by the FAA and the UAS industry to safely integrate operations, including the small UAS rule, which covers drones weighing less than 55 pounds, and the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), which automates the application and approval process for most UAS operators to obtain airspace authorizations.

These efforts lay the foundation for more complex operations, such as those beyond visual line of sight at low altitudes, as the FAA and the drone industry move toward a traffic management ecosystem for UAS flights separate from, but complementary to, the air traffic management system.

The proposed Remote ID rule would apply to all drones that are required to register with the FAA (recreational drones weighing under 0.55 pounds are not required to register), as well as to persons operating foreign civil UAS in the U.S.

2019 - Executive Summary - NPRM on Remote ID of UAS Part 89
Executive Summary -- NPRM on Remote Iden[...]
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2019 - NPRM Remote Identification of UAS
Remote Identification of UAS NPRM 12.20[...]
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Remote ID and Commercial Drones - Enabling identification and transparency in the NAS - Whitepaper - Kittyhawk
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H.R.636 - FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016

SEC. 2202.

NOTE: 49 USC 40101 note. Consultation.


(a) In General. The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, the President of RTCA, Inc., and the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, shall convene industry stakeholders to 

facilitate the development of consensus standards for remotely identifying operators and owners of UAS and associated UA.

(b) Considerations.--As part of any standards developed under subsection (a), the Administrator shall ensure the consideration of

(1) requirements for remote identification of UAS;

(2) appropriate requirements for different classifications of UAS operations, including public and civil; and

(3) the feasibility of the development and operation of a publicly accessible online database of UA and the operators thereof, and any criteria for exclusion from the database.

(c) NOTE: Reports. Deadline. Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report on any standards developed under subsection (a).

(d) NOTE: Deadline. Regulations. Guidance. Not later than 1 year after the date on which the Administrator submits the report under subsection (c), the Administrator shall issue regulations or guidance, as appropriate, based on any standards developed under subsection (a).


SEC. 2208. UTM


SEC. 2209.

NOTE: 49 USC 40101 note. Deadline.


(a) Applications for Designation. Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Transportation shall establish a process to allow applicants to petition the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration to prohibit or restrict the operation of a UA in close proximity to a fixed site facility.

(b) Review Process.

(1) Application procedures.

(A) In general. The Administrator shall establish the procedures for the application for designation under subsection (a).

(B) Requirements. The procedures shall allow operators or proprietors of fixed site facilities to apply for designation individually or collectively.

(C) Considerations. Only the following may be considered fixed site facilities:

(i) Critical infrastructure, such as energy production, transmission, and distribution facilities and equipment.

(ii) Oil refineries and chemical facilities.

(iii) Amusement parks.

(iv) Other locations that warrant such restrictions.

(2) Determination.

(A) NOTE: Deadline. Notice. In general. The Secretary shall provide for a determination under the review process established under subsection (a) not later than 90 days after the date of application, unless the applicant is provided with written notice describing the reason for the delay.

(B) Affirmative designations. An affirmative designation shall outline

(i) the boundaries for UA operation near the fixed site facility; and

(ii) such other limitations that the Administrator determines may be appropriate.

(C) Considerations. In making a determination whether to grant or deny an application for a designation, the Administrator may consider

(i) aviation safety;

(ii) protection of persons and property on the ground;

(iii) national security; or

(iv) homeland security.

(D) Opportunity for resubmission. If an application is denied, and the applicant can reasonably address the reason for the denial, the Administrator may allow the applicant to reapply for designation.

(c) NOTE: Web posting. Public Information. Designations under subsection (a) shall be published by the Federal Aviation Administration on a publicly accessible website.

(d) Savings Clause. Nothing in this section may be construed as prohibiting the Administrator from authorizing operation of an aircraft, including a UAS, over, under, or within a specified distance from that fixed site facility designated under subsection (b).


2-13-2019 - External Marking Requirement for SUA

This interim final rule requires sUA owners to display the unique identifier assigned by the FAA upon completion of the registration process (registration number) on an external surface of the aircraft. SUA owners are no longer permitted to enclose the FAA-issued registration number in a compartment.

Federal Aviation Administration on 02/13/2019


2019 - DRAFT - Advanced NPRM - Safe and Secure Operations of sUAS
2120-AL26 Safe and Secure UAS ANPRM DRAF[...]
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2019 - DRAFT - NPRM - Operations of sUAS over people
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FAA Targets UAS Violators for Enforcement

Pilots of UAS who interfere with fighting wildfires, law enforcement efforts, or other first responders, such as medical flights, now are more likely to face serious civil penalties, even for first-time offenses.

The FAA has provided guidance for agency personnel who handle possible drone violations to refer all cases involving interference with first responders to the FAA Chief Counsel's office for possible enforcement action.

In July 2016, Congress authorized the FAA to impose a civil penalty of not more than $20,000 for anyone who operates a drone and deliberately or recklessly interferes with wildfire suppression, law enforcement, or emergency response efforts.

Under FAA guidance, inspectors generally use non-enforcement methods, including education, for correcting unintentional violations that arise from factors such as flawed systems, simple mistakes, or lack of understanding. However, given the potential for direct and immediate interference with potentially life-saving operations where minutes mattter, offenders will immediately be considered for enforcement actions. Enforcement actions can include revocation or suspension of a pilot certificate, and up to a $20,000 civil penalty per violation.

Deterring interference with first responders is critical, particularly as drone use expands exponentially. Firefighting aircraft trying to contain a wildfire have to suspend flights when a drone enters the area to avoid a possible mid-air collision. A drone flying over a crime scene or accident site can hamper police or medical aircraft operations. Ultimately, interference by a drone can cost lives.


Enforcement Reports



10-5-2018 - FAA Reauthorization Act

On October 5, 2018, the President signed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (PDF). The Act establishes new conditions for recreational use of drones and immediately repeals the Special Rule for Model Aircraft.

  • Fly for hobby or recreation only
  • Register your model aircraft
  • Fly within visual line-of-sight
  • Follow community-based safety guidelines and fly within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization
  • Fly a drone under 55 lbs. unless certified by a community-based organization
  • Never fly near other aircraft
  • Never fly near emergency response efforts

The agency is evaluating the impacts of this change in the law and how implementation will proceed. The Reauthorization Act cannot be fully implemented immediately, please continue to follow all current policies and guidance with respect to recreational use of drones:

Updated direction and guidance will be provided as the FAA implements this new legislation.


2018 - HR302 - FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018
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FRA of 2018 -UAS.pptx
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FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.docx
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7-20-2018 - Press Release 

FAA Statement–Federal vs. Local Drone Authority



USDOT Automated Vehicles Activities

Updated: Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The U.S. Department of Transportation is committed to facilitating a new era of transportation innovation and safety and ensuring that our country remains a leader in automation. The Department of Transportation is acting as a convener and facilitator, partnering with a broad coalition of industry, academic, states and local, safety advocacy, and transportation stakeholders to support the safe development, testing, and deployment of automated vehicle technology.

This webpage provides information about ADS 2.0 and the Department’s recent and upcoming activities related to automation, as well as access to resources for learning more about automated vehicles and data relevant to automation.

U.S. DOT recently hosted a Public Listening Summit on Automated Vehicle Policy. See the Summary Report and the Webcast for key takeaways from the Public Listening Summit on Automated Vehicle Policy.


FAA Expands Drone Airspace Authorization Program



UAS Identfication and Tracking ARC released September 2017



H.R.2810 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 - Became Public Law No: 115-91




(d) Restoration Of Rules For Registration And Marking Of UA.—The rules adopted by the Administrator of the FAA in the matter of registration and marking requirements for sUA (FAA-2015-7396; published on December 16, 2015) that were vacated by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Taylor v. Huerta (No. 15-1495; decided on May 19, 2017) shall be restored to effect on the date of enactment of this Act.


2017 and 2018

InFO 17018 - 11/27/2017 and InFo 18001 - 2/14/2018

Subject: Use of Reflective Vests by sUAS Remote Pilots 

Purpose: This InFO serves to inform sUAS remote pilots on techniques for clearly identifying and legitimizing themselves to the general public and law enforcement. 

Background: With the rapid increase in sUAS activity, combined with the technology and regulations being relatively new, the general public and law enforcement can be uninformed of what, when, how, and where sUAS are legally permitted to be flown. Additionally, the public perceives some sUAS operations as threatening to their safety or privacy, in part because remote pilots are not easily identifiable.

2017 - FAA InFO - Use of reflective vests by sUAS Remote Pilots
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2018 - FAA InFO - Use of reflective vests by sUAS Remote Pilots
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US Department of the Interior - Office of Aviation Services - Use of UAS

US Department of the Interior - Privacy Impact Assessment


US Forest Service UA Policy

Forest Service Manual (FSM) 5713.7

UAS must be considered the same as crewed aircraft, in terms of acquisition, approval and carding of pilots and aircraft, inspections, maintenance, avionics, training, and operations.  All FSM 5713.7 and FSH 5709.16 references to crewed aircraft include UAS.

Any Forest Service leased, contracted, or owned UAS will require a Certificate of Authorization (COA) from the FAA before operation.  COAs will be coordinated through the Forest Service Technical Contact as identified in the National Aviation Safety and Management Plan.

Use of other agency UAS which have approved COAs will require prior approval from the Washington Office Assistant Director, Aviation.  Aircraft and pilot approval for cooperator UAS will adhere to existing cooperator aircraft and pilot approval policy in FSM 5712.4 and 5713.43.

Tips for Responsible Hobby or Recreational Use of UAS or "Drones" on National Forest Systems Lands 

Know where to fly

  • Individuals and organizations may fly UAS for hobby or recreational purposes in compliance with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft(link is external) (Section 336 of Public Law 112-95). 
  • UAS must be flown below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles.
  • UAS are considered to be both “motorized equipment” and “mechanical transport” as such they cannot take off from, land in, or be operated from congressionally designated Wilderness Areas.  
  • UAS are not permitted to fly in areas that have “Temporary Flight Restrictions” (TFR) in place.  You can search the FAA website for current TFRs by clicking here(link is external).
  • Never fly your UAS over or in close proximity to any fire operation (wildfire or prescribed).  UAS flights over fire operations disrupt aerial firefighting operations and create hazardous situations.  
  • The Forest Service regularly flies aircraft at low altitudes to perform natural resource management. It is the UAS Operator’s responsibility to be aware of these flights and take the steps necessary to avoid them. Contact the local Ranger District Office or the FAA for scheduled flights in the area.      

Protect Wildlife and the Environment

  • Do not fly over congressionally designated Wilderness Areas or Primitive Areas as many people seek these places for the opportunities for solitude and quiet that they provide. 
  • Do not fly over or near wildlife as this can create stress that may cause significant harm, and even death. Intentional disturbance of animals during breeding, nesting, rearing of young, or other critical life history functions is not allowed unless approved as research or management. 
  • Follow state wildlife and fish agency regulations on the use of UAS to search for or detect wildlife and fish. 
  • Launch the UAS more than 100 meters (328 feet) from wildlife.  Do not approach animals or birds vertically with the UAS. 

Fly safely, Stay in control

  • Keep your UAS within your visual line of sight at all times. 
  • Take lessons and learn to operate your UAS safely.
  • Remain well clear of and do not interfere with crewed aircraft operations.
  • Fly your UAS at least 5 miles from an airport or backcountry airstrip.
  • UAS should not be flown over or in close proximity to populated and noise-sensitive areas, such as campgrounds, trail heads, and visitor centers.
  • Obey all privacy laws.

Follow Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines

  • Ensure that you comply with all FAA regulations and guidance for flying your UAS. The FAA has authority over all airspace. Information on FAA regulations is available here(link is external).
  • Do not fly any aircraft weighing more than 55 pounds (total weight, including payload and fuel source).


US Department of Justice Guidance - Domestic use of UAS



Authority: 36 CFR 1.5




The term "uncrewed aircraft" means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the device, and the associated operational elements and components that are required for the pilot or system operator in command to operate or control the device (such as cameras, sensors, communication links). This term includes all types of devices that meet this definition (e.g., model airplanes, quadcopters, drones) that are used for any purpose, including for recreation or commerce.


Closure Language:


Launching, landing, or operating a UA from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of [insert name of park] is prohibited except as approved in writing by the superintendent.


Policy Memorandum 14-05 (“Uncrewed Aircraft – Interim Policy”) requires all superintendents to insert closure language in the park compendium prohibiting launching, landing, or operating UA from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service (NPS), subject to the exceptions and conditions described in the Policy Memorandum.


One of those exceptions, listed in paragraph 1(d) of the Policy Memorandum (see Conditions and Exceptions), allows for activities under a special use permit (SUP) that specifically authorizes launching, landing, or operating a UA and that is approved in writing by the Associate Director, Visitor and Resource Protection (ADVRP). 


SUPs that permit launching, landing, or operating UA from or on lands or waters administered by the NPS should clearly identify the designated area(s) for these activities within the park. SUPs should also contain appropriate terms and conditions to ensure safe operation of UA and mitigate any unacceptable impacts to the resources and values of the park.


In addition to the standard SUP conditions included on all permits, the following conditions are required:

UA may not disturb or harass wildlife.

- UA may not interfere with NPS search and rescue, law enforcement, or other emergency operations.

- UA will not be flown in a reckless manner or outside the designated area(s).

Operators may not operate UA while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

- Inexperienced UA operators must be accompanied and assisted by an experienced operator.

Operators must avoid flying directly over people, vessels, vehicles, or structures and must avoid endangering the life and property of others.

Operators must report all accidents involving injury (even minor first aid) and any resource or property damage to the NPS immediately. Notification to the NPS does not relieve the operator from reporting requirements under 49 CFR 830 or under a Certificate of Authorization (COA) required by the FAA.

UA must be within visual sight, with no visual aids authorized, of the operator at all times during flight of the UA. 

Operators must have sufficient liability insurance or proof of membership in an organization such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) which includes insurance coverage with membership.


Optional conditions to consider (select as appropriate; may be revised based upon individual park needs): 

  • Safety line(s) must be established. Only persons associated with flying the UA are allowed at or in front of the safety line that separates the area of flight operations from non-flight areas. 
  • An area away from the safety line must be maintained for spectators. Intentional flying behind the safety line is prohibited.
  • Time of day restrictions (consider no nighttime operations).
  • Mufflers are required on all flammable fuel-powered models.
  • Pilots/Operators will make the appropriate announcement when taking off, landing, or in emergency situations.
  • First aid kits must be carried by pilots/operators.
  • The SUP may prohibit the use of flammable liquids for fueling UA. If the superintendent decides to allow flammable fuels, however, the following requirements should apply:
    • All flammable fuels will be stored in containers that are Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listed and approved.
    • No more than 5 gallons of all flammable liquid may be on site at any time.
    • A fully operational 10# ABC portable fire extinguisher must be on site.
  • All flight operations will be limited to times when there is no presence or threat of lightning or thunderstorms, no presence or threat of any type of precipitation, and no presence of sustained wind greater than 5 mph or threat of wind gusts greater than 10 mph.
  • Size, weight restrictions.
  • UA may not be launched, landed, or operated from or on areas that are eligible, studied, proposed, recommended, or officially designated as wilderness.
  • One single pilot may not control more than one UA at the same time.

see brochure below - violation is a misdemeanor with maximum penalty of 6 months in jail and $5,000 fine

National Park Service - US Dept of the Interior - UA in the National Parks
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Policy Memorandum 14–05, UA – Interim Policy

On June 19, 2014, National Park Service Director Jonathon B. Jarvis signed Policy Memorandum 14–05, UA – Interim Policy. Its purpose was “to ensure that the use of UA is addressed in a consistent manner by the NPS before a significant level of such use occurs within the National Park System.” Each superintendent was directed “to use the authority under 36 CFR 1.5 to close units of the National Park System to launching, landing, or operating UA…” This policy is still in place and the public may not use UA in the national parks.



2015 July - US GAO report - UAS - FAA continues progress toward integration into the NAS
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2013 - Hearing - The future of drones in America - Law enforcement and privacy considerations
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2013 - Drones in Domestic Surveillance Operations: 4th Amendment implications and legislative responses - Congressional Research Service
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JO 7210.873 - UA Operations in the National Airspace System (NAS) - cancelled July 11, 2015

JO7210.889 - UA Operations in the National Airspace System (NAS) - issued October 27, 2015 and which cancelled JO7210.882 - and then itself cancelled October 29, 2015

to be replaced on November 25, 2015 by JO7210.891 - UA Operations the National Airspace System which then was cancelled November 24, 2016

FAA Order: 8900.313 - Education, Compliance, and Enforcement of Unauthorized UAS Operations - issued August 4, 2015 - cancelled March 31, 2016

FAA Order: 8130.34D - Airworthiness Certification of UAS and Optionally Piloted Aircraft - issued September 8, 2017

8000.372A - UAS Designated Airworthiness Representatives (DAR) for UAS Certfication at UAS Test Sites - issued December 12, 2014

FAA Order 8000.373 - FAA Compliance Philosophy - issued June 26, 2016

AC 00-46E - Aviation Safety Reporting Program - issued December 16, 2011

2150.3C - FAA Compliance and Enforcement Program - issued September 18, 2018

FAA Order 8110.4C - Type Certification - issued October 12, 2005

FAA Order 8130.2J - Airworthiness Certification of Products and Articles - issued July 21, 2017

FAA Flight Standards Information Management System (FSIMS)

8900.1 Volume 16: UAS 


The US Army Training Circular 3-04.61 - UAS Commander's Guide and Aircrew Training Manual

The US Army Training Circular 3-04.62 - Small UAS Aircrew Training Program

The US Army Training Circular 3-04.63 - MQ-1C UAS Commander's Aircrew Training Program and Aircrew Training Manual

The US Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 5-19 - Risk Management

Title 10 USC - This United States Code applies to the Armed Forces, therefore military UAS pilots must adhere to certain sections 
2011 - DOD - UAS Airspace Integration Plan
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2011 - DOD - UAS Group Descriptions
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October 29, 2015

FAA Administrator, the Honorable Michael P. Huerta, announced the UAS registration task force members

Nancy Egan – 3D Robotics
Richard Hanson – Academy of Model Aeronautics
George Novak – Aerospace Industries Association
Chuck Hogeman and Randy Kenagy – Air Line Pilots Association
Jim Coon – Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
Sean Cassidy – Amazon Prime Air
Ben Gielow – Amazon Retail
Justin Towles – American Association of Airport Executives
Brian Wynne – Association of Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International
Parker Brugge – Best Buy
Douglas Johnson – Consumer Electronics Association
Brendan Schulman – DJI
Paul Feldman – General Aviation Manufacturers Association
Dave Vos – GoogleX (Co-Chair)
Tony Bates – GoPro
Matt Zuccaro – Helicopter Association International
Mike Fergus – International Association of Chiefs of Police
John Perry – Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors
Brandon Declet – Measure
Randall Burdett – National Association of State Aviation Officials
Sarah Wolf – National Business Aviation Association
Baptiste Tripard – Parrot
Tyler Collins – PrecisionHawk
Gregory McNeal – Small UAV Coalition
Thomas Head – Walmart


October 28, 2015

US Senate Committee on Appropriations

Subcommittee Hearing to review UAS and the step being taken to successfully integrate this technology into our National Airspace System

Transportation, Housing & Urban Development: Integrating UAS Technology into the National Airspace System (Senator Susan Collins, Chairman)

The Honorable Michael P. Huerta - Administrator - FAA

Mr. Marty Rogers - Deputy Director - Alliance for system Safety of UAS through Research Excellence

Captain Tim Canoll - President - Air Line Pilots Association International

Click here to watch the video

July 2017

The FAA is providing the following updated information regarding the Small UAS Registration and Marking interim final rule as a result of a recent decision (PDF) by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit regarding the small UAS registration program.

The court's decision invalidated the registration requirement as it applies to certain model aircraft that meet the definitional and operational requirements provided in section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act (PDF). Owners of model aircraft which are operated in compliance with section 336 are not required to register. Owners of all other sUA, including newly-purchased UA not operated exclusively in compliance with section 336, remain subject to the registration requirement. The FAA continues to encourage voluntary registration for all owners of sUA.

The FAA is working on a final rule with respect to registration and marking that will implement the court's decision. In the meantime, if you are an owner operating exclusively in compliance with section 336 and you wish to delete your registration and receive a refund of your registration fee, you may do so by accessing a registration deletion and self-certification form (PDF) and mailing it to the FAA at the address designated on the form. Owners who already received a refund during the initial grace period are not eligible to receive a refund. This form has been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for approval of the information collection.

Please continue to check this website for further updates. To register your sUA, visit the registration portal.


October 19, 2015

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announces UA registration requirement - New task force to develop recommendations by November 20

Clarification of the Applicability of Aircraft Registration Requirements for UAS and Request for Information Regarding Electronic Registration for UAS - October 22, 2015

NPRM open for comment for only 15 days - Comment by November 6, 2015 deadline


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December 21, 2015 - Effective date - Register your small UAS for hobby or recreational use - for more information refer to the explanation and registering for commercial use under part 47

14 CFR Part 47


Dec 22, 2015 - FAA released FAA Order 8900.338 - New Requirements for Registering and Marking SUA


December 14, 2015 - FAA announces small UAS Registration Rule

- Registration is a statutory requirement that applies to all aircraft

- Applies to small UAS weighing 0.55lb (250g) up to less than 55lb (25kg) including payload e.g. camera

- Registration begins Dec 21, 2015

- First 30 days are free (till Jan 20, 2016) then $5

- Must register no later than Feb 19, 2016 if UAS was previously operated prior to Dec 21, 2015

- Must register before first flight outdoors if UAS purchased after Dec 21, 2015

- Must be 13 years of age to register (parent/guardian must register for younger children

- Streamlined and user-friendly web-based aircraft registration process

- Link for registration at


- Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership includes ID Number for UAS owner and this ID number must be marked on UAS

- Hobby/recreational users must only register once for all their models and use the same ID number which will be valid for 3 years


February 4, 2016 - UAS Magazine - Patrick Miller - Getting Our UAS Priorities Straight


February 2, 2016 - HR 4432 - The Commercial UAS Modernization Act

- Was introduced in the House of Representatives and thereafter referred to House Science, Space, and Technology (download below).

- To establish an interim rule for the operation of sUA for commercial purposes, and for other purposes.

- To amend the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (PL 112-95).

- To add Section 337 - Operation of sUA for commercial purposes - dealing with lack of airworthiness certificates, liability insurance, registration, testing requirements now to include proficiency test as well as the original knowledge test, accident reporting now to be accomplished within 2 days of the accident.

- To add Section 338 - Micro UAS Operations - for UAS weighing up to 4.4lbs - limit of 400 feet AGL, VLOS, daylight, 5SM of an airport, exemption from aircrew certification and airworthiness standards.

- To add Section 339 - Deputy Associate Administrator for UA whose duties it shall be to create an achievable comprehensive research and development program for the safe integration of UAS in the NAS

- To add Section 4 - Joint Aircraft System Research and Development Data Collection and Analysis Program - at the William J. Hughes Technical Center:

1. For research on safety standards for detect and avoid, command and control, autonomous aircraft systems, and air traffic management for BLOS

2. Use of Test Sites

3. Air Traffic Management Pilot Program


May 13, 2015 - S 1314 - Commercial UAS Modernization Act - introduced by Senator Cory Booker.


This bill amends the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to permit a person to operate a small commercial UA (drone) without an airworthiness certificate within the United States for the period beginning on enactment of this Act and ending on the effective date of a final rule based on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking "Operation and Certification of SUAS" dated February 23, 2015, subject to the following conditions and restrictions:

  • the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) must receive proof that the drone owner has liability insurance for the drone; 
  • the owner must register the drone;
  • the operator must pass a test developed to assess initial aeronautical knowledge and a proficiency test administered by a drone test site; and 
  • the operator must demonstrate the ability to fly the drone in accordance with certain operating restrictions concerning visibility, time of day, air traffic control, airspace, preflight inspection, and operator health.

A drone may not be operated until the operator of a test site certifies that it meets the requirements in the rulemaking notice and can operate within the restrictions.

The owner or operator of a drone involved in an accident causing personal injury or property damage must report it to the FAA within two days after the accident.

The FAA shall:

  • appoint a Deputy Associate Administrator for UA,
  • establish a joint aircraft system research and development data collection and analysis program at the William J. Hughes Technical Center, and
  • implement an air traffic management pilot program to research and test a new regulatory structure for drone operations in airspace below 1,200 feet.
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March 14, 2016 - South by Southwest Press Event - FAA Administrator Huerta

Quotes from the speech: "Late last month, we announced that we are setting up an Aviation Rulemaking Committee to develop recommendations for how we can safely allow certain UAS to be operated with people below. Our goal is to create a performance-based regulatory framework that addresses potential hazards, rather than a classification that is based only on weight and speed."

"...we expect to have our small UAS rule finalized this spring. As most of you know, this rule will allow for routine commercial operations of small UAS within certain limitations. It will, for the most part, eliminate the need to issue Section 333 exemptions on a case-by-case basis, and it will open up access to the national airspace system while maintaining today’s high safety standards."

With respect to B4UFLY - "Today, I am pleased to announce that the Android version of the app will also be publicly available later today, also free of charge. There are currently more than 35,000 people using B4UFLY, almost all of them iOS users, but now users of virtually all smart phones will have access to it, which we believe will help heighten public awareness about what it means to fly UA safely. The Android version includes a lot of updates based on feedback from beta testers, like a much more user-friendly flight-planning feature."



February 24, 2016FAA Unveils Effort to Expand the Safe Integration of UA

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is establishing an aviation rulemaking committee  (PDF) with industry stakeholders to develop recommendations for a regulatory framework that would allow certain UAS to be operated over people who are not directly involved in the operation of the aircraft. The FAA is taking this action to provide a more flexible, performance-based approach for these operations than what was considered for Micro UAS. The committee will begin its work in March and issue its final report to the FAA on April 1.


Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act

Introduced in Senate - 3-3-2015


- Amends the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to direct the Secretary of Transportation to study and identify any potential threats to privacy protections posed by the integration of UA (drone) systems into the national airspace system, including any potential violations of privacy principles.

- Directs the Secretary to establish certain procedures to allow for civil operation in the national airspace system of small drone systems that do not meet expedited operational authorization requirements. Requires such procedures to ensure that the integration of drone systems into the national airspace system is done in compliance with privacy principles.

- Prohibits the Secretary from approving, issuing, or awarding any certificate, license, or other grant of authority to operate a drone system in the national airspace system unless the application for it includes a data collection statement, meeting certain requirements, that provides reasonable assurance that the applicant will operate the drone system in accordance with privacy principles. Applies the same privacy principles requirement to any drone system to be operated by a law enforcement agency or a law enforcement agency contractor or subcontractor, except that the application for it shall include a data minimization statement, meeting certain requirements, instead of a data collection statement.

- Directs the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to make any approved certificate, license, or other grant of authority, plus other specified information, available in a searchable format on the public FAA website.

- Prohibits a governmental entity from using a drone system, or requesting information or data collected by another entity through use of a drone system, for protective activities, or for law enforcement or intelligence purposes, except pursuant to a warrant issued using the procedures described in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (or, in the case of a state court, issued using state warrant procedures) by a court of competent jurisdiction, or as permitted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. Makes an exception to this prohibition in exigent circumstances when a law enforcement entity reasonably believes there is: (1) an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury; or (2) a high risk of an imminent terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization, according to the Secretary of Homeland Security .

- Makes it unlawful to operate a drone system in a manner that is not in accordance with the terms of a data collection statement or in a manner violating any portion of the final rule for the procedures for civil operation of small drone systems required by this Act. Grants enforcement authority to the Federal Trade Commission .

- Authorizes a state to bring a civil action on behalf of state residents in state or U.S. district court for injunctive relief against violations of this Act or related regulations if the state attorney general has reason to believe that an interest of state residents has been or is threatened or adversely affected by a prohibited act or practice.

- Creates a private right of action in state or U.S. district court for persons injured by a prohibited act.

- Allows a suit against a governmental entity.

- Requires the FAA to revoke the certificate, license, or other grant of authority to operate a drone system operated in a prohibited manner.

- Declares that nothing in this Act may be construed to apply to model aircraft flown strictly for hobby or recreational purposes and meeting certain other criteria.

March 2016 - FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016 (SB 2658)FAA reauthorization moves to full Senate


H.R.4441 - Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2016

Introduced in House - 2-3-2016

contains UAS legislation

Sec. 431. Definitions.
Sec. 432. Codification of existing law; additional provisions.
Sec. 433. UA test ranges.
Sec. 434. UAS senior leadership and staffing.
Sec. 435. Sense of Congress regarding UA safety.
Sec. 436. UAS privacy review.
Sec. 437. Public UAS operations by tribal governments.
Sec. 438. Facilitating UA authorization in support of firefighting operations.
Sec. 439. Low altitude UAS traffic management.
Sec. 440. UAS detection systems pilot program.
Sec. 441. Evaluation of aircraft registration for sUA.


April 6, 2016 - FAA reviewing micro UAS Report

The FAA is currently reviewing the report and recommendations of the Micro UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee. The agency had tasked the group to develop recommendations for performance-based regulations that would let certain UA operate over people not directly involved in the flight of the aircraft. The rulemaking committee, which began meeting March 8, worked under a tight deadline of April 1 to deliver its report. The task force included a diverse set of aviation stakeholders, including UAS manufacturers, UAS operators, consensus standards organizations, researchers and academics. The ARC’s consensus report recommends establishing four small UAS categories, defined primarily by risk of injury to people below the flight path. For each category, the group recommends assigning a potential risk linked to either weight or impact energy. The report also addresses operational restrictions and standards to minimize the risks associated with each category. The FAA will use the information in the report to develop a flexible, performance-based proposed rule. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the proposal based on the ARC’s recommendations. 

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On July 15, 2016, President Obama signed into law H.R. 636, the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (“the Act,” Pub.L. 114-190). The Act extends the authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA”) programs and taxes to fund those programs through September 30, 2017, at current funding levels. The Act also includes new and amended provisions related to integrating commercial sUAS, a.k.a. “drones,” into the National Airspace System (“NAS”). This alert highlights the provisions of the Act related to safety, security, and drones.

2016 - ABA Air and Space Journal - Everybody wants to rule the world - Federal v. State power to regulate drones
Drone Fed Preemption.pdf
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2017 - ABA Air and Space Law - The Drone Liability Lawsuit - Who gets sued and why
Drone Liability May.pdf
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Navigable airspace - 49 USC 40102(a)(32) - "navigable airspace" means airspace above the minimum altitudes of flight prescribed by regulations under this subpart and subpart III of this part, including airspace needed to ensure safety in the takeoff and landing of aircraft.


David Zablidowsky arrested for flying his personal UAS over Manhattan - his device crashed outside Grand Central Station, and while no one was injured, NYPD cited him for second degree "reckless endangerment."


14 CFR Part 157

DRONE brings us inside the covert CIA drone war. The film follows people who live under drones in Pakistan and drone pilots who struggle with the new warfare. Watch the trailer below!

2015 March 10 - Paul Denton, Chief of Police, Ohio State University - Drones on Campus: 10 Challenges to Consider
Drones-PP 3.10.15.pdf
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2015 April 5 - Risk, Product Liability Trends, Triggers, and Insurance in Commercial Aerial Robots - by David K. Beyer, Donna A. Dulo, Gale A. Townsle, and Stephen S. Wu.
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2014 April 5 - Considerations of a legal framework for the safe and resilient operation of autonomous aerial robots - by Cameron R. Cloar and Donna A. Dulo.
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UAS in the National Airspace: Aerial Goldmine or Legal Landmine? - Donna Dulo
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SciTech Lawyer Volume 9, by Donna A. Dulo, Christoper S. Lee, Cameron Cloar, and Jeewon Kim - UAS: Mobility on the Edge
UAS mobility on the edge.pdf
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2015 - SciTech Lawyer - Eyes in the sky and privacy concerns on the ground - Hillary B. Farber
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2014 - Privacy, Restriction, and Regulation Involving Federal, State and Local Legislation: More Hurdles for UAS Integration?
Federal State and Local Legislation_ UAS[...]
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2016 - Drone Zoning - Troy A. Rule
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2015 - Airspace in an Age of Drones - Troy A. Rule
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2015 February 2 - Article appearing in Business Law Today - Seeking Law Abiding Drones: What to tell clients that want to use drones in their business
Seeking Law Abiding Drones: What to Tell[...]
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UAS Security Society - Paul DeBone - Security: The Critical Missing Link in Civilian Drone Operations
Security_The Critical Missing Link in Ci[...]
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2015 January 22 - Pirker, FAA settle penalty for alleged unsafe drone operation - Pirker settles!
Pirker, FAA Settle Penalty for Alleged U[...]
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2014 November 18 - Michael P. Huerta v. Raphael Pirker - Docket CP-217 Opinion
Pirker 11.18.2014.pdf
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2014 November 18 - Decisional Order
Pirker 3.6.2014.pdf
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2015 November 19 - King & Spalding - Client Alert - NTSB finds that drones are "aircraft" under Federal Law
king and spalding client alert.pdf
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2008 March 13 - Interim Operational Approval Guidance 08-01 - UAS Operations in the US National Airspace
FAA uas_guidance 08-01.pdf
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2007 February 13 - Federal Register Volume 72, Number 29 - document to clarify the FAA's current policy concerning operations of UAS in the NAS
FAA policy 07-01.pdf
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2015 September 16 - Memo - Interim Operational Approval Guidance for operations of UAS in the NAS
FAA policy 05-01.pdf
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How should states regulate drones and aerial surveillance? by David L. Hudson Jr. - American Bar Association Journal - February 1, 2015

Attorney Peter Sachs has an interesting website on drone law

Drone and Mood by Don McCullough from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

On August 13, 2014, the FAA announced that the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University's unmannned aircraft systems (UAS) test site program was ready to conduct research vital to integrating UAS into the nation's airspace.  The site is the last of 6 nationwide to be declared operational.  The FAA granted Virginia Tech 7 Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COAs) for 2 years.  Virginia Tech is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) consisting of academia, government, industry, economic development agencies, and non-profit organizations throughout Virginia, New Jersey, and Maryland.

The FAA first authorized use of UA in the National Airspace System (NAS) in 1990.

Today, UA are flying in the NAS under very controlled conditions, performing border and port surveillance by the Department of Homeland Security, helping with scientific research and environmental monitoring by NASA and NOAA, supporting public safety by law enforcement agencies, helping state universities conduct research, and supporting various other missions for public (government) entities. Operations range from ground level to above 50,000 feet, depending on the specific type of aircraft. However, UAS operations are currently not authorized in Class B airspace, which exists over major urban areas and contains the highest density of crewed aircraft in the National Airspace System.

2013 - Drone Federalism - Civilian drones and the things they carry - Berkeley Law Scholarship Repository
Drone Federalism_ Civilian Drones and th[...]
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Thomson-Wimmer Inc. is changing the way companies do business by changing how they see UA technology!

February 2015 - Harvard Law School - National Security Journal - Drones in the US National Airspace System: A Safety and Security Assessment



2015 March - Domestic Drones and Privacy: A Primer - a paper written by the Congressional Research Service
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2015 - Media use of UAS - FAA
Williams-AFS-80 - (2015) legal interpret[...]
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FAA on Aviation-Related Videos or Other Electronic Media on the Internet

This notice provides guidance to aviation safety inspectors (ASI) regarding actions to be taken when notified of videos or other electronic media posted to the Internet depicting the operation of aircraft in the National Airspace System (NAS) that may be contrary to Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) or statute.

UAS videos, in particular, are increasingly appearing on the Internet. UAS videos may depict aircraft being flown in a variety of classes of airspace and at varying altitudes. Inspectors are to follow the protocol below when receiving notification of videos with potentially noncompliant UAS operations posted to the Internet. This notice provides an outline and protocol for inspectors when initiating educational outreach. When responding to a notification that requires contact with a UAS operator, follow the guidance contained in FAA Notice N 8900.268, Education, Compliance, and Enforcement of Unauthorized UAS Operators (cancelled). If counseling in the form of an informational letter is warranted, send the UAS Informational Letter Template for Inspectors (see Appendix A). The letter must not be altered other than to fill in the appropriate address of the operator and FSDO along with your contact information and signature. If the educational outreach is ineffective in gaining compliance, the UAS operator is noncompliant or uncooperative, or the UAS operation resulted in a medium to high potential or actual endangerment to the NAS, the inspector is to continue their investigation as outlined in N 8900.268. 

Note: N 8900.227, UAS Operational Approval (cancelled)

Note: N 8900.292, Aviation-Related Videos or Other Electronic Media on the Internet is still available.

The memorandum (download below) dated May 5, 2015, addresses three issues concerning the use of UA for newsgathering: (1) whether members of the media may use UAS for newsgathering; (2) whether the media may use pictures, video, or other information collected by a person using UAS; and (3) whether a person who sells images collected by UAS would need authorization for his or her operations.



RAL Space

2015 February 15 - webinar transcript in PDF by Brendan Schulman explaining the NPRM for sUAS
Adobe Acrobat document [1.2 MB]


Overview of sUAS by the FAA on proposed Rule 107



§404.13   Petitions for extension of time to comment.

(a) Any person may petition the Associate Administrator for an extension of time to submit comments in response to a notice of proposed rulemaking. The petition shall be submitted in duplicate not less than three days before expiration of the time stated in the notice. The filing of the petition does not automatically extend the time for petitioner's comments. 

(b) The Associate Administrator grants the petition only if the petitioner shows a substantive interest in the proposed rule and good cause for the extension, and if the extension is in the public interest. If an extension is granted, it is granted as to all persons and is published in the Federal Register.

[53 FR 11013, Apr. 4, 1988, as amended by Amdt. 404-2, 68 FR 35289, June 13, 2003]


The FAA's rulemaking process and AOPA's response to the NPRM on UAS

Presidential Memorandum: Promoting Economic Competitiveness while Safeguarding Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in Domestic Use of UAS


The law is currently settled in the US that, "on the public street, or in any other public place, the plaintiff has no legal right to be alone; and it is no invasion of his privacy to do no more than follow him about and watch him there." Mark v. Seattle Times - 1981


UAS PREZI Regulations v. Policy


FAA PREZI Rulemaking Process 


DOT and FAA Propose New Rules for Small UAS - February 15, 2015

NPRM - Operation and Certification of small UAS - February 23, 2015

Comment on NPRM on UAS Operation and Certification before April 24, 2015


February 12, 2014 - Public use of UAS - Advisory Circular 00-1.1A - Public Aircraft Operations


14 CFR Part 11 - General Rulemaking Procedures



Federal Register Act of 1935


Administrative Procedures Act


Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972


Regulatory Flexibility Act


Executive Order 13,272 - Proper Consideration of Small Entities, to further add on Small Business Administration notification requirements


Memorandum on Regulatory Flexibility, Small Business, and Job Creation


DOT Order 1351.18 - UAS Privacy Policy - Implementation Instruction
UAS Privacy Policy.pdf
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2012 - FAA Modernization and Reform Act - HR 658
FAA Modernization and Reform Act 2012.pd[...]
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