Antonelli Law is a leading national drone law practice group. The head of the group, Jeffrey Antonelli, founded the group in January 2014. Our roster of experts is unsurpassed by any firm in the country, large or small. The firm boasts
clients nationwide from Hawaii to New York, with deep experience in regulatory actions, aviation, and academic UAS. One of our attorneys flies for the world's largest airline.
We provide free initial consultations regarding Public COAs as well as Section 333s including an estimate of our fees to help you so that you may include a budget request for your program.
If you have any question you may call attorney Jeffrey Antonelli at 312-201-8310 or send an email at Jeffrey@Antonelli-Law.com
PUBLIC COAs FAQ and Basic Instructions
1) Only for public agencies
2) The agency self-certifies the pilot and aircraft.
3) No manned pilot's license needed.
It is vital to give yourself enough lead time to prepare the COA before you intend to operate. If you are a university and want to operate a UAV during the fall semester, consider beginning the paperwork at the beginning of the spring semester – or sooner - in order to give yourself enough time to obtain the necessary letter from your state’s attorney general, register your UAV with the FAA, and gather and submit the other required information.
1) Show that you are a public agency
The FAA requires your public agency to provide a letter, preferably from your state’s attorney general, certifying that the agency is public. This is a necessary first step before being allowed to proceed through the online portal to apply for a COA.
Examples of public agencies who can apply for and receive – or have received – public COAs include local law enforcement or emergency response; public universities and community colleges; and federal agencies like NASA and Customs and Border Protection.
2) Have a public aircraft
Governmental functions are defined as “an activity undertaken by a government, such as national defense, intelligence missions, firefighting, search and rescue, law enforcement (including transportation of prisoners, detainees, and illegal aliens), aeronautical research, or biological or geological resource management. 49 CFR 40125 (a)(2)
Interesting Notes for Discussion:
The FAA has stated that “aeronautical research” for the purposes of a public COA must involve the development of an aircraft to qualify – non-aviation research that incidentally uses a UAV would not qualify in this definition. The FAA will allow universities to use UAVs for research that is non-aeronautical; however, the defined government function should be worded in the terms of aeronautical research.
A state university with a public aircraft COA can use it for aeronautical research is the state’s intended mission, but the findings of the research would have to belong to the state regardless of the source of funding, including private research grants.
A UAV that does not meet these criteria can still be a public aircraft if the Administrator determines that there are extraordinary circumstances; the aircraft is being operated for search and rescue; a community would not otherwise have access to S&R services; and a government entity demonstrates that granting the waiver is necessary to prevent an undue economic burden.
The FAA has an online portal through which a public agency will submit all the necessary information and will guide the applicant through the process. An agency will receive access to the online portal after the FAA receives the proper letter certifying that the agency is a public agency.
Once logged in, the applicant will need to provide specific information to the system prior to submitting the application.
A detailed description of the location in which you wish to fly is required when submitting a COA Application. This should include, at minimum:
The FAA will required two descriptions of operations:
This detailed operational summary needs to be just that – a detailed step-by-step procedure of how you intend to conduct operations. This would include:
Note: public COA holders may not be required to have an individual with an airman’s certificate act as the Pilot in Command.
The individual who signs off on the COA application will be the FAA point of contact for any questions. That person must be knowledgeable about the process and the system, and not merely a bureaucrat. For example, the president of a public university should not be the signatory unless the president has been actively involved in the application and can explain what has been proposed. A better choice for the signatory may be the professor who wishes to use the UAV in her class.
About the Antonelli Law Drone/UAS Practice Group
The Drone/UAS Practice Group at Antonelli Law is a group of attorneys with deep knowledge of law, technology, privacy, and aviation. Our federal practice relating to the rapidly developing commercial "drone"/Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) industry allows us to serve clients nationwide. In addition, our attorneys are licensed in numerous states from California to New York and in between.
"Whether we call them UASs, UAVs, or drones, these aircraft are an exciting new development in the aviation industry. But they also raise some serious safety and privacy concerns – that we need to address before the FAA licenses these vehicles for broad use in our national airspace."
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