Hunton & Williams law firm provides UAS guidance

By Emily Aasand | November 13, 2014

Hunton & Williams LLP announced the formation of an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) integration unit to assist clients with the legal complexities associated with the developing commercial UAS regulations. The firm will be able to assist with issues regarding the rulemaking process of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, and other state and federal agencies.

“Our view in general is that with emerging technology like this, which has so many obvious applications for various uses, that there are lots of other opportunities that many folks haven’t even considered yet. We think there’s just such a broad range of applications that clients like ours could use the technology for and it’s not just the UAS platform itself, but what it can do for them, how they’re implementing that into their businesses, and that, I think, provides a rich landscape of opportunity for them to do things faster, better, cheaper, and in ways they hadn’t envisioned before,” said Michael Sievers, a counsel at Hunton & Williams.

“Coupling all that with a regulatory environment that’s just being born around this technology, we certainly saw a need for our clients to have some advice in navigating that landscape, influencing that landscape if they can or have that desire, but otherwise, really learning with it and complying with it,” said Sievers.

“Our UAS integration unit’s current initiatives include collaborating with clients to develop internal working groups to include representatives from legal, new technologies, risk management, privacy and security and aviation departments; risk management, privacy and security and aviation departments; and participation in joint efforts of industry, trade groups and government to clarify rules regarding the operation of UAS and related systems,” said the firm.

The UAS integration unit is part of the larger Unmanned Systems Group and is led by Sievers, Doug Kenyon, Eric Murdock, and Lisa Sotto. The unit includes business, litigation and regulatory professionals who will monitor and participate in the developments of regulatory programs for UAS and other unmanned systems.

“We have tried to be, as a firm, swift in adapting to the new technology and the new opportunities that have arisen and certainly saw the need and the way to service our clients here and tried to bring this together quickly so we could service those needs,” said Sievers.

“The use of these emerging technologies draws on areas of the law in which we have significant proficiency, such as aviation, environmental, government relations, insurance, maritime patent, privacy and data protection, products liability, property and land rights, risk management, technology and transportation,” said the firm.

Hunton & Williams isn’t the only law firm, getting involved in the UAS industry. McKenna Long & Aldridge LLPrecently petitioned the FAA on behalf of its UAS Advisory Group, requesting that any Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the FAA addressing small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) including a regulation that preempts state and local regulation of sUAS including design, sale, distribution, use or operation.

The UAS Advisory Group is an extension of McKenna Long & Aldridge’s long-standing representation of the aerospace industry and had several members sign off on the letter to the administrator. The advisory group is roughly 20 to 30 companies, users, operators, companies who want to be in the UAS business and is speaking up for pressing issues related to UAS such as federal preemption.