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Questions to Ask a Lawyer About Your Drone Startup

drone flying in the clouds
By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. | Last updated on

Congratulations! You've decided to start a drone business! But before you start flying around and performing all of the aerial nuances of your new business, you may want to visit a lawyer to determine what to do, and what not to do.

Are There Any Drone Federal Regulations I Should Know About?

In order to frame your business model correctly, it's best to know what the federal government will, and will not, allow you to do. If you plan to make money with your drone, which hopefully is part of the business model, you will be flying your drone under the Federal Air and Aviation (FAA) Small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rule, also known as Part 107 certification. If there is any part of you that is asking "What does this mean?" you should probably see a lawyer to make sure you're getting it right.

After receiving certification, you should be familiar with rules the FAA has established for drones. Basically you cannot fly:

  • Over 400 feet
  • Over 100 mph
  • Out of your sight
  • Near other aircraft
  • Near airports
  • In National Parks or Washington D.C.
  • Over people
  • Over stadiums
  • Near emergency response efforts such as fires
  • Under the influence of drugs and alcohol

There are a variety of different penalties for breaking these rules, ranging from a fine to losing your license to jail time. You may be asked to hand over your memory card too. But do you have to? These questions are full of intricacies, and you should definitely consult a lawyer to see if the plan violates these, and any other, laws. Basing a business on an illegal operation, especially if you are seeking equity, can be a federal offense.

And Don't Forget the Business Part of Your Drone Business

In addition to drone issues, take the time to ask questions that apply to all startups. Do you want to enter into any contracts with partners? Investors? Employees? Suppliers? Leases? Do you need help registering your new company? Need any permits to fly over certain areas? Will you want to copyright your photos? Have you figured out the tax implication of the business structure you chose? What's the equity arrangement between the co-founders? And the liability? You did buy insurance, right?

The drone legal landscape is constantly changing. Coupled with the intricate legal process of forming a new company, you could have a headache before you even get started. It's best to leave the business to the business people, and the legal matters to the lawyers. If you need help with setting up a drone business, or any business for that matter, contact a business lawyer, who can listen to your plan and give you the advice, and service, you need.

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