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  1. FAA Continues to Modify UAS Approval Process to Expedite Integration

    Wednesday, April 15, 2015 9:20 am by

    By the end of 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had approved less than 15 Section 333 exemptions authorizing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations. Roughly three months later, that number has jumped to over 130 Section 333 exemptions approved. The surge in approvals can be attributed to recent changes in the FAA’s approval process as well as increasing pressure from the White House and industry to speed up UAS integration. A few of the recent changes implemented by the FAA include introduction of a “blanket” COA, reliance on a “summary grant” process, and dialing back of certain prerequisites to approval.   (more…)


  2. BLM Releases Final Rule for Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal Lands; Industry Immediately Files Suit

    Friday, March 27, 2015 1:37 pm by and

    Brief Overview

    On March 20, 2015, three years after its initial proposal, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized new regulations applicable to hydraulic fracturing activities on federal and Indian lands.  BLM previously released a draft proposed rule in May 2012 and revised draft in May 2013.

    Key aspects of the final rule include requirements to:  (1) request approval of hydraulic fracturing before commencement of operations; (2) disclose chemicals after completing hydraulic fracturing activities (preferably via FracFocus); (3) perform well integrity and cement evaluation tests and obtain approval if cement remediation is required; (4) use steel tanks for the storage of recovered waste fluids from hydraulic fracturing; and (5) supply information  on estimated fractures and existing wellbores to reduce the risk of impacts to existing wells, i.e., “frack-hits.” (more…)


  3. FAA Announces New Policy to Streamline UAS Integration for Low-Level Flights

    Tuesday, March 24, 2015 2:53 pm by

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced a new policy aimed at reducing the amount of time it takes for companies to deploy unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Specifically, companies that have obtained a Section 333 exemption for a UAS will now receive a “blanket” Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for flights at or below 200 feet. In the past, once the FAA granted a Section 333 Exemption the exemption holder would also have to file for a separate COA to fly the UAS in a particular block of airspace. The COA approval process can take 60 days.   This announcement comes on the heels of the FAA’s release of a proposed rule governing small UAS flights in the United States. A major component of the proposed rule that stakeholders have supported was the FAA’s introduction of alternatives to the COA process. (more…)


  4. 41 Questions the FAA Is Asking in Its ANPR on Small UAS / Drones

    Tuesday, March 10, 2015 1:17 pm by

    drone3Recently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published in the Federal Register its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking focused on the Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or “drones” within the United States. The publication in the Federal Register starts the clock on the 60-day comment period, which at this point ends on April 24, 2015.   My recent blog outlined the FAA’s general framework for the UAS ANPR, including the main operating limitations.

    Today, I’ve listed below some of the major areas where the FAA is seeking input from stakeholders, including Risk Mitigation, Line-of-sight, Payload, International, Size Class, Crewmember, Testing Site, and other issues. Among other things, the FAA is looking for comments on the feasibility of its proposal, alternatives, any new technology that could inform its decision, data and studies.

    The FAA specifically is seeking comment on: (more…)


  5. Year Long Pause Lifted on MLP Qualifying Income Private Letter Rulings – Proposed Regulations to be Issued

    Saturday, March 7, 2015 8:21 pm by , , , and

    Following a year long pause, the IRS announced Friday that it has resumed its review of pending private letter ruling (PLR) requests and is accepting new PLR requests concerning MLP qualifying income under Section 7704(d)(1)(E) of the Internal Revenue Code. During the qualifying income ruling pause, which began in March 2014, the IRS postponed consideration of taxpayer requests for qualifying income PLRs in order to study issues related to qualifying income and to consider broader interpretive guidance to the MLP industry.

    In addition, according to statements made by an IRS official, the Treasury Department will issue proposed regulations in the near future that address qualifying income. The issuance of proposed regulations will be a significant development in this area, as PLRs historically have been the primary source of interpretive guidance on the scope of activities generating qualifying income. Although no details on the substance of the proposed regulations were given, the IRS indicated that the proposed regulations will address qualifying income related to midstream, upstream and downstream activities, as well as oilfield services activities. In addition, it is our understanding that generous transitional rules will be provided for MLPs and other taxpayers that previously received PLRs that may be inconsistent with the proposed regulations once they are finalized. (more…)


  6. The FAA Releases First of Its Kind Proposal for Small Drones/Unmanned Aircraft Systems

    Thursday, February 19, 2015 5:08 pm by

    drone1

    On February 15, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) announced the release of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking focused on the Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) or “drones” within the United States.  The release of the UAS NPRM is a step in the right direction that many in the industry have been waiting for since the FAA first chartered the small UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee (“ARC”) in 2008.

    While some industries may find aspects of the proposal restrictive, many are pleased with the FAA’s initial UAS regulatory effort, which is focused on small UAS or those that weigh less than 55 lbs.  The UAS NPRM will at least remove some uncertainty for industry and could trigger more investment in UAS technology.  However, the process from release of the UAS NPRM to when a final rule takes effect could take years.  Companies looking to operate UAS in the interim are left to navigate one of many current certification processes, which are limited to specific purposes and still involve a bit of uncertainty.

    In the meantime, companies interested in deploying their UAS technology as well as industries that see an expanded role for the use of UAS (e.g., energy, agriculture, entertainment) should consider commenting on the FAA’s proposal, which will set the stage for future of UAS regulation.  There will be an opportunity to comment for a 60-day period once the UAS ANPR is published in the Federal Register. (more…)


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