Last month's reversal of a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration policy prohibiting the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for commercial purposes in the U.S. may just be the catalyst the drone industry has sought for years.
The decision could result in an estimated $80 billion-plus economic uptick over the next decade, but it's not just drone manufacturers and that see boom days ahead. In coming years various federal, state, and local authorities will cultivate a tangled swamp of regulations governing the use of UAS in domestic airspace, and several major U.S. law firms are moving to meet what's expected to be a huge demand for legal guidance as companies large and small bump up against FAA, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and other civil aviation rules for the very first time.
Director of SteadiDrone Ltd., flies a SteadiDrone QU4D aerial drone fitted with a GoPro video camera in a field in Knysa, South Africa
Even before last month's ruling -- in which a federal judge determined that the FAA has no real authority to regulate small UAS under its existing civil aviation rules -- several law firms across the country were in the process of developing special practice groups focused on UAS law. Both Atlanta-based McKenna Long & Aldridge and Richmond, Va.,-based LeClairRyan last month announced the establishment of special "drone law" practice groups. In January, Las Vegas-based Fennemore Craig Jones Vargas did the same. Likewise, various firms focused in whole or in part on aviation law have developed expertise in legal issues surrounding UAS and now have legal experts on offer to help companies and individuals navigate an increasingly complex legal landscape.
[Read Full Article: 'Drone law' becomes big business]