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Unmanned Aircraft (Drones)

Steptoe’s Transportation Group is at the forefront of cutting-edge matters in both commercial and regulatory settings, and we have been repeatedly recognized as a Band 1 practice by Chambers USA.  Our experience in aviation law, where we have assisted airline clients and other aviation industry interests in a variety of matters before federal agencies – and have advised them on the evolving commercial and regulatory issues facing the airline industry – gives us the necessary insight to provide sound regulatory compliance and commercial advice and guidance for clients working with unmanned aircraft (drones).  We assist clients in obtaining Section 333 exemptions, Certificates of Waiver or Authorization, Special Airworthiness Certificates, and help them navigate the new, groundbreaking rules issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding commercial operation of small drones.  We also help clients to obtain experimental licenses from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to permit communications between ground stations and unmanned aircraft.  And we are participating in various FCC and International Telecommunication Union (ITU) regulatory proceedings to establish the rules that will permit unmanned aircraft to provide broadband Internet access services.

Drones represent the next phase of innovation in the airline industry, and present tremendous opportunity to a wide variety of entities, from budding entrepreneurs working to bring innovative technology to market, to established companies seeking to obtain the necessary regulatory approvals to operate commercially.  With lawyers that are well-versed in the painstaking process of gaining regulatory approval, and who practice regularly and have well-established relationships before all of the relevant agencies, including the FAA and the FCC, we have the skills and experience necessary to solve the commercial and legal issues that arise when technological advances and innovation meet regulation.

Our lawyers have decades of experience handling aviation accidents that range from light general aviation aircraft to mass disaster airline crashes to military accidents.  We have represented clients in dozens of National Transportation Safety Board investigations.  With the NTSB’s confirmation that it will investigate significant UAS accidents, it is imperative that operators prepare for an accident response and have experienced legal representation available.  Our lawyers are highly regarded and frequently assist transportation clients with accident preparedness and response activities.

Our practice draws on the skills of our lawyers in telecommunications, intellectual property, government contracts, privacy and data protection, international trade and export control, and commercial litigation to provide a full range of services, from licensing and regulation, to advocacy and transactional services.