Trump Speeds Up Commercial Drone Integration

At least five drone programs will be selected to test out an innovative public-private integration because of a memorandum signed by President Trump this week to speed up the use of drones for commercial purposes. The president has directed the Department of Transportation (DOT) to draft a plan that clears drones—technically known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)—for takeoff. The UAS Integration Pilot Program, run by the DOT, will accept proposals from state and local authorities attempting to apply drones in ways that will have positive impacts on economic development, transportation, workplace safety, or improved emergency response, among other areas. Selected proposals will be invited to collaborate with private-sector partners to put plans into action. After these five programs have been operating for three years, the DOT and Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) will take best practices to help inform drone regulations for commercial use. Sheila Kerwin, an attorney with Nilan Johnson Lewis’ product liability team, advises clients on drone regulations and says liability risk under the UAS Integration Pilot Program is no different than under current FAA Part 107 regulations. Drone manufacturers should continue to make sure that (1) insurance policies include aviation coverage, (2) all employees operating drones have the proper certification, and (3) meticulous records are kept. For insights and questions regarding the newly released presidential memorandum and its impact on current UAS regulations for commercial use, contact Sheila Kerwin at 612.305.7515 or skerwin@nilanjohnson.com, or Allyson Petersen at 612.305.7726 or apetersen@nilanjohnson.com.