On July 10, our Technology, Manufacturing and Transportation group blogged about the FAA approving a new UAS device for agricultural operations.

Agribusiness professionals are already proficient with a variety of federal regulations (USDA, EPA, etc.) but adding an unmanned aircraft system (“UAS”) into the business brings another agency into the mix – the Federal Aviation

The use of unmanned aerial systems (“UAS,” or more commonly drones) to collect data is gaining considerable attention in the agricultural, manufacturing, real estate and other industries.  In addition to photographic data, infrared information and other remote sensing technologies are under development and testing.  The collected data will provide important and powerful information to provide significant efficiency and improvement of various operations in these industries.  Owners and operators of operating sites, including farms, manufacturing sites, raw material and fuel storage, and others should be aware that data collected by UAS may be subject to review by federal and most state environmental agencies and could be used in enforcement proceedings.  EPA could also utilize UAS directly, or hire contractors to use UAS, for enforcement investigation purposes.

EPA’s Authority to Access Information

The Clean Air Act (“CAA”), Clean Water Act (“CWA”), and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) give EPA broad authority to mandate monitoring and reporting and collect information from regulated entities.

For the purpose of determining whether any person is in violation of the CAA, EPA may require an owner or operator of an emission source, or any person who EPA believes may have relevant information to maintain and submit various data, records, and reports.  EPA’s access to and inspection of documents and records is not limited to documents or records that EPA itself requires to be maintained.  EPA may access any records required pursuant to federal or other applicable regulation, or records directly related to purpose of inspection.
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As widely reported and as noted in our February 16th blog post, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently issued its long-awaited proposed rules on operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), also known of as “Drones” in the national airspace.

The proposed rules are open for a public comment for a period of 60 days,

On February 15, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) issued its long awaited proposed rules on the domestic use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”).  The 196 page document proposes rules to address only UAS weighing less than 55 lbs (including attached camera weight, etc.).

As discussed in more detail in our firm’s UAS Team Blog, the proposals provide a less restrictive framework than many expected.  Importantly, the rules are merely proposals and are open to public comment for a sixty (60) day period.

Notably, recent Section 333 exemptions were granted to applicants who uniformly included the voluntary commitment to utilize licensed pilots as operators.  Many expected at least a private pilot licensed operator to be a threshold requirement and many feared a commercial pilot license requirement.  Possibly recognizing the current and future use of UAS by non-pilot enthusiasts, the FAA proposed a new framework allowing for anyone to become an authorized operator so long as he/she is at least 17 years old, passes an aeronautical knowledge test given at a FAA testing center and is vetted by the Transportation Safety Administration (“TSA”).

A few additional proposed rules of interest include daylight only and visual line of sight operation at or below 500 feet.  Importantly, no airworthiness certificate will be required for UAS models weighing less than the 55 pound limit opening the door for use of UAS models currently on and coming to the market.  Finally, the UAS may not be operated over any persons “not directly involved in the operation” unless it qualifies as a MicroUAS which is one weighing 4.4 pounds or less which is itself a category for which the FAA has not yet proposed rules.
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Husch Blackwell had a team of agriculturally-focused lawyers in attendance at the InfoAg conference hosted by the International Plant Nutrition Institute at Union Station in St. Louis from July 29-31, 2014. With over 1,400 registered for the conference, the three day program included discussions and presentations in various ballrooms that attracted sometimes standing room only

Earlier this week, two of Husch Blackwell’s UAS team members, Matt Grant and Tom Gemmell, attended the inaugural Delta AgTech Symposium sponsored by Entira with support from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), which took place at the Agricenter International complex in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Symposium offered an early glance