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Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Autonomous Vehicles

Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are the next phase of innovation in the aviation industry and present tremendous opportunity to a wide variety of companies and industries, from budding entrepreneurs bringing innovative technology to market to established companies seeking to take advantage of the efficiencies and safety offered by UAS. Steptoe’s lawyers are well-versed in the regulatory process involved with obtaining authority to operate UAS. We practice frequently before and enjoy established relationships with all of the relevant agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). We have the skills and experience necessary to solve the commercial and legal issues that arise when technological advances and innovation meet the realities of regulation.

Steptoe’s Transportation Group is at the forefront of matters in both commercial and regulatory settings, and we are repeatedly recognized as a Band 1 practice by Chambers USA. Our experience in aviation law, where we have assisted aviation industry clients in a variety of matters before federal agencies – and have advised on the evolving commercial and regulatory issues facing the aviation industry – gives us the necessary insight to provide sound regulatory compliance and commercial advice for clients working with unmanned aircraft. We assist clients in obtaining necessary exemptions and waivers, and help them navigate new, groundbreaking rules issued by the FAA. We also assist clients in creating operations procedures to integrate UAS into commercial entities and have helped clients to establish contractual relationships with FAA-approved UAS test sites and with Department of Defense installations to perform experimental UAS flights. 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.

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 (NTSB) 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.

Autonomous Vehicles
Autonomous Vehicles are the latest technological advancement in transportation. The introduction of Highly Automated Vehicles (HAVs) brings a host of new regulatory and legal challenges to businesses across the automotive industry and beyond, from car manufacturers and shipping companies, to insurers and cybersecurity firms. As autonomous vehicles become more readily available to consumers, Steptoe’s team stands poised to assist. Our lawyers are immersed in the regulatory approval process, and practice frequently before all relevant agencies, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), US Department of Transportation (USDOT), NTSB, and FCC. We remain at the forefront of legal issues that develop in opportunities where the next step in technological advancement requires regulatory approval.

Steptoe’s 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.