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FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 Raises Concerns Among the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Community

It has been nearly two weeks since the sweeping FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 was signed into law on Oct. 5, 2018. As the first long-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration to be enacted since 2012, the primary purpose of the act is to extend funding for the FAA for the next five years. However, the act also contains a plethora of supplementary provisions, including requirements that the FAA promulgate rules setting the standard for seat sizes on commercial aircrafts, barring carriers from involuntarily removing passengers who have already boarded aircraft, and prohibiting live animals from being transported in aircraft overhead compartments.

One supplemental provision has caused particular concern to those within the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) community. The Preventing Emerging Threats Act, Division H of the larger FAA Reauthorization Act, authorizes the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security to track, warn, disable, seize, damage, and destroy unmanned aerial vehicles determined to pose a “credible threat” to people, facilities, or assets. Significantly, this authority is granted to agencies without constraining their decision with any warrant requirement. This sweeping provision affects any commercial or recreational drone use, particularly those who operate near any sort of high-profile event or facility, as there is an ever-present risk that innocent UAVs will be identified as a “credible threat” and treated accordingly.

Certain industry insiders have gone so far as to express concern that, for example, this provision could be used to shoot down news reporting drones capturing footage of controversial detention facilities.

Further information on the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 is available online at https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsid=91844.



About this Author

Clifford G. Maine, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Grand Rapids, Corporate Law Attorney

Clifford G. Maine is chairman of the firm’s Aviation Law Group. Mr. Maine's practice encompasses a wide variety of aviation law practice areas. He serves as general counsel to numerous aviation organizations, including the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport Authority.

Mr. Maine’s aviation clients include some of the largest corporate flight departments in the world. He has structured numerous aviation transactions, including domestic and foreign-based aircraft purchase and sale transactions, like-kind exchanges, timeshare agreements,...

Todd Dixon Commercial Litigation & Aviation Attorney

Todd A. Dixon is an attorney in Barnes & Thornburg's Grand Rapids and Indianapolis offices and focuses his practice on commercial litigation and aviation law.

Todd's practice encompasses a wide variety of aviation law practice areas. He has structured aviation transactions, including domestic and foreign-based aircraft purchase and sale transactions, like-kind exchanges, timeshare agreements, interchange agreements, joint and fractional ownership agreements, personal and executive use policies, FAA registrations, Capetown International Registry, and aircraft leasing transactions. Todd also provides legal counsel on aviation-related issues including aircraft ownership structures, federal excise tax planning, state sales and use tax planning, and depreciation planning. Todd frequently advises on aviation insurance coverage matters, warranty matters, ongoing service requirements, and regulatory requirements and enforcement matters.

In addition to his transactional practice, Todd represents clients in complex aviation lawsuits.

Prior to embarking on his legal career, Todd was a career military officer and pilot. During his twenty-year active-duty United States Air Force career, he amassed more than 2,000 flying hours, primarily in KC-135 and C-12 aircraft, operated in multiple combat environments throughout the world. Todd retired from the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel. Trained and experienced in problem solving and accustomed to working in a fast-paced, unforgiving, and high stakes environment, he has leveraged that experience to provide timely, accurate, and focused legal services to clients.

Todd is extremely active in the legal community, specifically in the area of aviation law.

A leader in pro bono work, he provides substantial legal services to numerous nonprofit organizations and has been active in the Southern District of Indiana's Pro Bono Program.

Kenneth D. Suzan, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Minneapolis, Intellectual Property and Litigation Law Attorney
Of Counsel

Kenneth D. Suzan is of counsel in Barnes & Thornburg LLP's Minneapolis, Minnesota office and is a member of the firm's Intellectual Property Department.

Mr. Suzan has experience in the areas of trademark law, copyright law, Internet law, social media law, domain names, and service mark matters. He has counseled his clients on a variety of issues ranging from the inception of a trademark to ultimate registration, licensing and enforcement. Mr. Suzan counsels and assists wearable technology companies to protect brand names through trademark,...

Shane Solinger, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Minneapolis, Corporate, Finance and Bankruptcy Law Attorney

Shane Solinger is an associate in the Minneapolis office of Barnes & Thornburg, where he is a member of the Corporate Department.

Mr. Solinger gained legal experience as a summer associate for in the firm’s Minneapolis office and through an internship with Spectrum Brands, Inc. In those roles, he drafted responses to motions for summary judgment, motions for relief from automatic stays, complaints and answers; researched and drafted memoranda on diverse legal issues, including bankruptcy, real estate, business litigation, and various federal...