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Recreational Drone Laws Still Facing Potential Major Changes

Throughout 2019, interpretations of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 resulted in sweeping changes to recreational operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones. 

While some changes have gone relatively unnoticed, the recreational drone flying community began sounding the alarm in October 2019 about recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) statements regarding Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) fixed flying sites. 

The FAA is planning to limit all recreational model aircraft operations to 400 feet in controlled airspace and there will be no exceptions. The agency is also proposing restrictions in uncontrolled airspace to altitudes that could not only prevent some model aircraft operations, but safety issues as well.

If these regulations move forward, that may lead to the end of certain high-altitude recreational drone operations supported by these clubs.

A recap of other significant changes that have taken affect this year include:

Beginning in May 2019, recreational drone flyers must obtain prior authorization from the FAA to fly in controlled airspace surrounding airports. 

Another May FAA guidance established that drones must be externally marked. In addition, it provided that recreational operators must comply with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions in controlled and uncontrolled airspace, and those operators must pass a required Aeronautical Knowledge and Safety Test. 

In July 2019, the FAA expanded the Low Altitude Authorization and Capability (LAANC) system, for use by recreational flyers in controlled airspace previously available to only commercial operators,

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About this Author

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

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,...

616-742-3944
Todd Dixon Commercial Litigation & Aviation Attorney
Associate

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.

317-231-7352
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,...

612-367-8713
Shane Solinger, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Minneapolis, Corporate, Finance and Bankruptcy Law Attorney
Associate

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...

612-367-8708