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Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)


Client and Industry Challenges

With as many as seven million UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems), commonly known as drones, registrations predicted by the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) by the year 2020, of which 2.7 million are forecast to be for commercial use, it appears that UAS will soon be part of the fabric of daily life as well as commerce and industry. Yet, law and regulation governing the use of UAS remain unsettled, as federal, state and local governments enact sometimes conflicting rules under their various jurisdictions, and as more is learned about the impacts of this emerging area of aviation. As the number of UAS grow, and more uses for the technology evolve, experienced Snell & Wilmer UAS/Drone attorneys are actively engaged in representing clients in this important new area of law, focusing not only on what is new in this field, but also what is next in order to assist clients with:

  • Regulatory and Contractual Issues
    • Providing regulatory advice on required authorizations for UAS use
    • Conducting in-house compliance training on the legality of public and private sector operations and service
    • Drafting and performing due diligence review of operative agreements, including master service agreements, third-party service agreements, lease and maintenance agreements
    • Drafting UAS policies, practices and procedures for corporate entities and governmental agencies (including police and fire departments, other first responders and water agencies)
    • Assisting with UAS registrations and filings involving FAA Part 107 authorizations, including Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COA), exemptions under Section 333 or 334, as well as Experimental or Type Certificates
    • Advising clients on industry best practices involving, data retention, security, community outreach and educational awareness programs
    • Advising clients on the implications of changing state and federal privacy laws
    • Representing client’s interests in the formation of UAS laws and policies before local, state and federal bodies
  • Government Contracts
    • Representing and advising defense contractors on UAS liability implications
  • Insurance
    • Reviewing insurance coverages to assure coverage for claims arising out of UAS operations, including personal injury, property damage, invasion of privacy torts coverage and worker’s compensation
    • Assisting in filing claims related to UAS accidents
  • Construction
    • Advising contractors and subcontractors in establishing protocols and policies for UAS usage on construction sites in accordance with applicable regulations
    • Assisting construction companies and individuals in assessing potential risks, including personal injury, associated with UAS usage at construction sites
  • Intellectual Property
    • Identifying and protecting intellectual property related to UAS as new technology and applications drive the growth of the UAS field
    • Prosecuting patents, registering copyrights, trademarks and domain names and securing trade secret protection before administrative agencies and courts
    • Remaining current on the legal aspects of advanced UAS technologies such as photography, lidar, thermography, 3D and orthomosaic imagery, biological and chemical sensors, sonar collision avoidance, geo-fencing and more
  • Privacy
    • Protections against unwanted UAS interference and invasion of privacy
    • Advising regarding UAS restrictions related to private property and privacy rights and defending potential privacy violations

Clients We Serve

Our UAV/Drone attorneys represent clients in industries as diverse as those touching UAS use. In many cases, our UAV/Drone attorneys work in concert with Snell & Wilmer attorneys in related practice areas to bring deep industry knowledge to bear in areas such as construction, intellectual property and employment law. We also have a strong aviation and FAA practice which coincides with and augments our UAV/Drone practice, having served airport, airline, concessionaire, and aircraft owners and operators for over 60 years and having advised such clients on FAA matters, regulatory compliance and governance issues for decades.

Why Clients Select Us

Involved and Invested: While UAS/drones may seem to be on a sudden arc to ubiquity, Snell & Wilmer attorneys have long been involved and invested in this field and with this important technological advance. Attorneys in this practice area are on the pulse of regulatory changes and challenges and frequently speak and publish on the topic. In addition, our attorneys are involved in a number of aviation industry organizations including Airports Council International - North America, the American Association of Airport Executives, the Arizona Airports Association and the National Business Aviation Association.

Dynamic, Comprehensive Approach: With more than 400 attorneys in twelve locations throughout the western United States and in Mexico, we have the depth and breadth of experience necessary to offer our UAS/Drone clients a broad range of services that are sensitive to the complex and often subtle differences in state laws as well as local laws with impact. In addition to our western U.S. locations, we also have a location in Washington, D.C., which allows us to closely observe the federal legal landscape, including guidance and regulation from the FAA. We can also quickly form teams to support an organization’s complex needs with deep and diverse talents of attorneys in more than five dozen practice areas.

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