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14 Nw. J. Tech. & Intell. Prop. 1 (2016-2017)

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Copyright 2016 by Northwestern University School of Law                      Volume 14, Number 1 (2016)
Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property

   Making civilian drones safe: performance standards,

         self-certification, and post-sale data collection

                  By Henry H. Perritt* & Albert J. Plawinski **


        With millions of small drones in private hands, the FAA continues its struggle to
develop an effective regulatory regime to comply with Congress's mandate to integrate
them into the national airspace system. Thousands of individuals and small businesses
have obtained authorization from the FAA- section 333 exemptions-allowing them to
fly their drones commercially. Farmers, TV stations, surveyors, construction-site
supervisors, real estate agents, people selling their properties, and managers seeking
cheaper and safer ways to inspect their facilities, want to hire the exemption holders, but
many are holding back until the FAA clarifies the groundrules.
        The FAA understands that its traditional approach for testing and licensing pilots,
scrutinizing every detail of a new aircraft before it can be flown, and controlling flight
operations of helicopters and airplanes have little relevance to the risks presented by
small drones. In any event, traditional aviation regulations are unenforceable against
tens or hundreds of thousands of drone owners who know nothing about the FAA or the
FARs, are not part of the aviation culture, and who fly mainly in their backyards or
customers' parking lots.

   * Professor of Law and former Dean, Chicago-Kent College of Law, the law school of Illinois Institute
of Technology. Commercial helicopter and private airplane pilot. S.B. in Aeronautics and Astronautics,
MIT; S.M. in Management, MIT Sloan School; J.D., Georgetown University Law Center. Formerly
applications engineer and senior sales planner, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation; consultant to
Administrative Conference of the United States on FAA and NTSB civil penalty procedures; served as a
member of the National Academy of Sciences' Computer Science and Telecommunications Board.
Member of the bar: Virginia (inactive), Pennsylvania (inactive), District of Columbia, Maryland, Illinois,
Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. Perritt represents several private clients seeking section 333
exemptions from the FAA.
   ** Albert J. Plawinski is a law student and a technology enthusiast. He has conducted research on drone
technology, drone laws, administrative law, and developed software that improved return-to-home
function for drones by finding alternative safe landing locations.
   Over the past ten years, Mr. Plawinski worked at a Polish youth camp, Camp Vista, and became the
camp manager during the past five years. His leadership at Camp Vista brought new creative changes to the
camp curriculum. He has designed the camp logo and camp merchandise, photographed camp activities for
promotional material, and organized major events like the camp's 50th anniversary.
   Albert graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with highest distinctions in
Political Science. His senior thesis, Facebook Use and Political Participation, analyzed participants'
Facebook usage and their offline political participation. He is a second-year student at Chicago-Kent
College of Law, expected to graduate in 2017.
   Mr. Plawinski enjoys photography and experiments with vintage film cameras. He built several tube
amplifiers, and collects vinyl. Mr. Plawinski runs a small blog about current legal issues in the drone
industry and brainstorms legal and technological frameworks for autonomous drone flight for food and
package delivery.

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