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Home > Public Safety Drone Podcast > Attorney Jonathan Rupprecht Talks About Drone Aviation Legal Traps – S1E3
Attorney Jonathan Rupprecht Talks About Drone Aviation Legal Traps – S1E3

Attorney Jonathan Rupprecht Talks About Drone Aviation Legal Traps – S1E3

Jonathan Rupprecht is a recognized attorney in the drone niche. He has an extensive background in UAS aviation, and his law firm website is a wealth of information for all drone pilots.

Jon is a trusted source of information, and he spends a lot of time helping to understand issues that impact us all as public safety pilots.

You can listen to more episodes here.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • How departments can evaluate the difference between what a salesperson or manufacturer promotes and how to fly within current aviation regulations.
  • The limits of flight as a government agency.
  • Why public safety agencies seem to fly beyond the regulations without concern or “color outside the lines.”
  • The landmine’s new public safety pilots have never been taught, but they are required to know.
  • The federal crimes and flight restricted areas you can fly into by accident.
  • Even manned aircraft pilots are not aware of all the regulations they have to comply with.
  • How to become the most knowledgeable drone pilot at your agency.
  • A Part 107 pilot meets the FAA remote pilot certification, but it is not training to fly under a COA with stricter rules and requirements.
  • We do some aviation scared straight.
  • How an attorney would easily target your flight operations and stack up the penalties.
  • How FAA prosecutors might give you a heavy spanking or a slap on the wrist.
  • How your flight operations can string you up with your own flight telemetry.
  • Why a consultant can be a source of information to prosecute illegal flight operations.
  • Are all drone failures negligent?
  • The need for test flying the aircraft after every update of hardware, software, or firmware.
  • How a plaintiff attorney will target the pilot or public safety agency if an issue arises. The weak points to target.
  • How effective a Remote Pilot Part 107 certificate will be in a flight incident.
  • When you can launch quickly or when you have to preflight all flight operations and document it.
  • Why it really matters who is drafting your Certificate of Waiver or Authorization or a Part 107 waiver and what is the unauthorized practice of law.
  • We talk about the questions agencies should ask before thinking the marketing or salesperson is telling you the truth.
  • How drone mapping is creating legal problems for drone pilots.
  • If you are flying a modified drone, there are things to check before you take off.
  • Why flying all the time lawfully is smart, or do you have to.
  • How software that tracks flights for your department can cause more liability, you don’t expect.
  • Why it is effortless to figure out if you were flying beyond VLOS without even seeing your flight telemetry.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my pilot newsletter for the latest news and information for public safety pilots.

Transcript

Intro (00:00):
You’re listening to the public safety drone flight podcast. Your source of real-world actionable aviation information for fire departments, police departments, and law enforcement agencies. This is the critical information you need to be an exceptional pilot and help save lives with flight. And now your host public safety flight, chief pilot Steve road.

Intro – Steve (00:24):
Hi, this is Steve Rhode, your friendly chief pilot here at the public safety flight website. Be sure to visit PSflight.org to get in on my private email list, read all the latest posts or ask me all of your public safety, drone questions. That’s PSflight.org. Or if that trips you up, you can land in the right place by using PublicSafetyFlight.org.

Steve Rhode (00:50):
All right, when it comes to dealing with legal issues surrounding unmanned aircraft issues, there is no one more recognized as an attorney in this space than Jon [inaudible]. His website is a plethora of information, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s a top authority in this space, and I’ll be sure to link to his website in the description for this episode, that Jon didn’t accidentally fall into aviation law. He’s been interested in aviation for quite some time. You say he graduated from Embry-Riddle aeronautical university and holds ratings in airplanes as a commercial instrument rated pilot in single and multi-engine airplanes. And he is also a certified flight instructor. And, you know, as I mentioned, Oh yeah, he’s a lawyer as well. He graduated from the Florida international university college of law and has gone on to do great things in the aviation legal world. Jon, thank you so much for the time today.

Jon Rupprecht (01:45):
Hey, thank you for having me. So let’s jump right in with a question that I sent you. I’m not going to tell any tales, but I do want to let people know ahead of time that your answer to the question was there are so many issues here. And so the burning issue of the moment is educating public safety agencies on how to balance what a drone can do versus what the federal aviation regulations will allow. For example, one drone manufacturer promotes the incredible artificial intelligence capabilities of its aircraft, and it demonstrates it regularly flying beyond visual line of sight in excess of the requirements that we have to abide by. So should public safety agencies take that it’s okay to do that and to fly as the marketing shows or how can they reasonably judge engage their liability for violating the FARs? Yeah, I mean, that’s a great question. I mean, so public aircraft operators, well, government operators have a couple of two different options. Well actually multiple different options and actually going about flying. And one of ones you’re referencing there is

Jon Rupprecht (03:00):
One Oh seven. So there are many fire departments, police departments that go and fly under part one Oh seven and one Oh seven point 31 provides that you can pretty much fly with beyond line of sight. It’s a limitation primary tethered to your visual abilities, right? So the time of day, the color of the aircraft are good. Your eyesight is the size of the aircraft that are all, those are all limiting factors on how far out you can go. So there’s a human component to one of seven 31 that many people kind of miss. And that’s the tether. If you will, that limits how far the technology can actually go without having to obtain a one Oh seven waiver, however you have other options, you can also go fly under part 91 as a public aircraft operator, but that has specific federal statutes that you have to comply with.

Jon Rupprecht (03:47):
And that can get problematic for certain types of operations. So for example, the federal statutes provide specifically say that in order to actually be a public aircraft operator, you’re going to actually not receive any compensation for the flight. Well, that gets problematic because certain fire departments or something, let’s say they want to actually maybe use it for disaster response and then take that those operations and then submit it for reimbursement to FEMA, right? Compensation, boom. Now you’re no longer a public aircraft operation. So there’s a, like I said, there’s soooo many things that can be said about this. Like where do you want, where do you want to go? I mean, there’s the FAA legal aspects?

Steve Rhode (04:25):
Just one question. So under, as a government operator, I see many departments that have applied for COAs certificates of waivers or authorizations because they believe that they can fly according to their own rules. They don’t have to comply with anything else. And in doing some research, I found out that at least 90% of the coaches that are issued do not allow for beyond visual line of sight flying. So are people mistaken that they can just do that as they want, or do they have to comply?

Jon Rupprecht (05:02):
You have to comply with the law and that’s kind of that’s, that’s a big issue there. In actually what I find interesting is actually the public sector guys are actually, it seems to be when it comes to regulatory compliance, they’re actually the worst out of all of the industries I’ve ever dealt with. And it’s really, I think it’s just really strange when the cops are like, don’t know the law. I just I’m just like, wait a second guys.

Steve Rhode (05:26):
Well, you think a type, a personality thing. I mean, I know it was pilots are type A’s, but in public safety the, one of the things I walked into was as a pilot first, before being a firefighter was an assumption that because I’m in public safety, I can do what I want to do.

Jon Rupprecht (05:50):
No. So I, I mean, that’s your opinion and that’s it it’s so there, there there’s, there’s there’s yeah, there seems to be this kind of overall aspect to where, like, we’re the good guys. We can kind of color outside the lines, or don’t really need to know where the, those lines specifically are because we’re trying to get our job done and we have more important things to do, blah, blah, blah. And then there, and it’s strange that I always see them, those tips, there’s particular groups of people. So just to emphasize training and safety, when it comes to like their regular, like non drone side of the business, if you will, I guess, right, what are their job? But then when it comes to the drones they seem to be some of the worst regarding what they actually understand, how much time and effort.

Jon Rupprecht (06:32):
And, you know, I don’t know if that’s cultural, it’s also could be just a practical matter of that. The upper management could have given this to them and they just dumped it on the plate and said, Hey you got to do the drone program, or they wanted to pioneer the drone program, but they realized there were the, the, the potato that size would not properly fit on the plate. So they had to kind of settle for a smaller potato in knowledge, if you will. And so it could be also that upper management did not properly allocate the them to do what they need to do. So, I mean, it’s a combination of all, I would say, all of the above when it comes to doing that,

Steve Rhode (07:03):
You’ve provided me with a perfect segue here. I, I call the new drone pilots that I see in public safety. Public safety is my focus. All right, I’m not talking about all drone pilots, but in public safety I love to call them the accidental aviators because they got excited about flying the drone, but they were never really into learning about aviation. You have a great background, commercial pilot instrument rated multi-engine CFI. Tell me what mindset that people don’t have not been educated about or don’t have when they have only passed a 60 question test to get a commercial license.

Jon Rupprecht (07:49):
That is so great of a question. But basically if we rephrase it another way, what else should you know that wasn’t on the test? Because you studied for the test and you thought that was it, eh, but eh, it’s not a couple of examples would be primarily figuring out like, if you are w NASA reporting forms which NTSB if any of the NTSB reporting requirements apply to that flight, maybe you’re flying a civil aircraft operator. However you got to look carefully at that. When does that get triggered? Up, up in there as well as do you have a proper emergency procedures? A lot of the manufacturers have manuals that are more like computer manuals, but not actual operations manuals, where they have like emergency procedures for like loss link flyaway, things like that. So that’s not really even tested upon a proper, proper pre-flight,uemphasis really kind of inspection on the aircraft, the area, the airspace, and knowing all those different things and how they can potentially affect your operations.

Jon Rupprecht (08:56):
And actually the problem is, is you’re also trying to have to learn how to speak aviation needs, and only a certain portion of aviation actually applies to drone flights and FAA didn’t really do a good job, but kind of like pulling it out all and saying, here’s everything you need from all these little parts and pieces. They’re kind of just expecting you to go on and run around and read everything and then kind of as a newbie, right. Figure out whether you need that or not. And nobody’s really kind of holding their hand, especially for like airspace pre flighting. What do you need to know for that, for, for that? Some of the regulations you studied under one Oh seven when you’re flying, but you don’t understand that there’s a whole host of other like federal crimes regarding airspace violations. Those are not even on your exam. Like, like those, like, yeah. And I mean, what about like, NOTAMs, like, Hey, what’s, what’s a NOTAM, why do you check? Everybody’s like, yo, they’re TFR as you fly there, the FBI will come after you. It’s like, yeah, that’s true. They’ll, they’ll bust you if you’re at the super bowl and we’ve seen that happen.

Steve Rhode (09:56):
But there’s,

Jon Rupprecht (09:58):
Well, yeah, I mean, that’s, it’s we’ve seen that, but then there’s also issues with auto about the no Tams for GPS interference testing when the military is doing jamming exercises, when your aircraft is using GPS and that’s your mitigator for a loss link, it’s not really going to be flying back home if it’s jammed in you’re in that actual area at that time. So you can, you need to know to how to check for that. And on top of that, I mean, there’s, there’s airspace the charts, the chart supplement, right? The note Tams that update the chart supplement and the sectionals and everything after they’ve been published and then you have multiple databases. So, I mean, I, I, at the same time I feel for everybody, that’s maybe not proficient at this because there’s just, just, there’s a voluminous amount of information here.

Jon Rupprecht (10:43):
And even on the manned side of things, a lot of those guys, don’t probably even know all of the intricacies of these different pockets, I guess you would say of like, even how drone mall and some of this stuff. I mean, the drone stuff doesn’t even get isn’t even applicable. It doesn’t even kind of interact with what’s going on with manned aviation so much. So great example would be the thousands of 99.7 flight restrictions that are all over the place that the FAA, for some reason thought they, they issued six special security instructions under 99.7 to prohibit you to flying near a certain military bases and certain things. At some point that might get called into question in a court case, whether those are actually like legitimate uses of the 99.7, but regardless, do you know how to check for those? There’s a map that actually has all of those on there. Does anybody actually properly preflight for those prior to flying, you know, and

Steve Rhode (11:41):
Let’s take it back down to a basic level. I’m going to ask you to put your, your CFI hat on for a moment. And one of the things that I feel that drone pilots got shortchanged on was that time that you spend at the airport or with your flight instructor or talking to people hanging around the airport. And can you talk just for a minute, about as a flight instructor, what are the things that you teach when you’re not teaching how to pass a test? Right. You must be talking about aeronautical decision-making risk management, you know, in more friendly terms, but you’re providing other information, aren’t you?

Jon Rupprecht (12:21):
Oh, right. I mean, yeah. So from, from a CFI standpoint and we were primarily teaching people how to think, how to properly, we’re kind of instilling a culture of safety in, in the, in the pilot, the professionalism kind of the, the [inaudible] as well as also trained to identify potentially any areas that they may have that they’re blind to, that you need to elucidate on such as, maybe you have a hazardous attitude of some sorts such as macho ism. Right. Oh, you think you’re awesome. And you can really get this done all the time. Well, I have a dead guy’s signature in my log book cause he thought otherwise and that could happen to you. Right? So you can have those conversations where you’re like, yeah. The flight instructor who checked me out on, on an aircraft died, not many, like months later, leaving wife and kid you need to knock it off.

Steve Rhode (13:10):
I have one of those in my log book,

Jon Rupprecht (13:12):
Right? Yeah. I’m like you and I can have those conversations where like, yeah, I flew with the dead guy and I have a dead guys log, you know, signature my log book. And so you can have, you can have those as mentor, mentee kind of conversations that they want a seven guys really don’t benefit from. But however well they’re not mandatorily required to do such how are they’re free to go and do that. And then you’d actually go and probably seek out people that are experienced that they can actually probably learn from in regards to just primarily just like pre flighting, like what does pre flighting look like? Right. How many times did you watch your flight instructor? Kind of explain like, Hey, look at the weather over there. What’s going on over here. Hey, we need to check for this because this is the reason why, and you remember those conversations, then you kind of tell them to the next person, right?

Jon Rupprecht (13:55):
So like this oral tradition and you can still kind of do that with people out there that are actually operating. So if you, if you lack that, that that experience you should probably, you should definitely be wise and go and seek it out because that, that remote pilot knowledge exam that you pass to go fly under one Oh seven, really doesn’t do much. If you’re flying on a part 91 under a public COA, then that doesn’t do, I mean, that’s, self-certified in regards to how you train the pilots there. And some of them use part one of seven as a proxy, but part one of seven doesn’t even, I mean, the, the remote pilot certificate doesn’t even teach you everything you need to know under part 91 and all the rest of the regulations. So there’s, there’s many, many gaps and holes in this, that the program managers are gonna need to be very careful in, in regards to properly kind of patching up those holes prior to operating, or if they’re doing it right now, they need to just like chill out and go talk to somebody who’s more experienced than them.

Steve Rhode (14:53):
Let’s let’s scare people straight for a moment with some truth. And what is your perception about the someone who says the bars don’t apply to me? I’m just going to fly. There are no, absolutely no consequences to me for not flying within the rules. What’s your advice.

Jon Rupprecht (15:13):
Yeah. So good question. So I mean, from a, from a a political fallout, right? There’s the, the, the PR relations nightmare that’ll happen there if you’re flying and your, you know, your boss finds out about it. Yeah. And it you’re doing it on company time. Right. That’ll or, but you know, that that could cause all sorts of headache. Right. let’s say you’re doing it in an individual capacity, or it’s just going to be applicable to you only you can have some fines going on there from the federal aviation administration. And typically whenever you’re violating a regulation, you’re not doing just one, you’re doing multiple regulations being violated at the same exact time. And those around, like what 14, it’s like 14,500 or something like that per violation times per flight. So you could have, you know, a couple K per flight.

Jon Rupprecht (16:02):
And depending upon the severity of the situation, the prosecutor could kind of treat it, it, it, it, it, certain violations are treated differently by the FAA prosecutors. So you could have a violation, but they don’t choose to fully spank you. Right. They kind of give you like a light spanking, but they could turn the volume of, if you overall, there’s a pattern here where you do exhibit this type of behavior where you just don’t care, then they could really come after you with a fine so you’re saying like, Hey, I don’t have a certificate to lose. What do I care? They could come after you with a a penalty. And you’re probably also like, well, how are they going to catch that? It’s like, well, the FAA has been smartly, a smart lawyer. They, they have been wise. And how they’re trying to play this out. You have a giant rat that’s gonna rat you out every time, right. It’s called your drone with your telemetry there’s flight data logs on there. So what they’re going to do is they, what they do is if they want to come after you, they try to obtain that aircraft or send out subpoenas to the whatever company, you know, is the manufacturer of that aircraft. And then obtain all that information.

Steve Rhode (17:07):
Let me interrupt you there. Or here’s the other thing that drives me crazy are the departments that are rushing to fly using some sort of group software that tracks all the flights,

Jon Rupprecht (17:19):
They could be right. So let me a couple, that’s a potential vector of attack from the FAA and or if there was a lawsuit, for example I mean, it’s setting aside the whole sovereign amunity. I mean, so setting aside the whole sovereign immunity issue and all that, I mean, but here in Florida the sovereign immunity has been waived for public agencies up that thinks about a hundred thousand dollars. If it, if a normal person, a civilian were to be held liable for that. And so then that gets into issues there because that’s probably the first target. If I were coming after your, your fire department police department, I’m coming after, I’m going to try to get ahold of all your flight records. Cause if I can get all those flight records and go through them and find some potential gotcha.

Jon Rupprecht (18:04):
That could potentially be showing a pattern of, Hey, this guy has a pattern here of following of not following the regulations. Look, he’s over 400 feet. I’m assuming it’s under one of seven. Right. I would try to identify also, are they a public aircraft operator or one Oh seven and get into that as well as also trying to find out if there’s any consultants they’re working with. So a lot of people work with the consultants, but the attorney-client privilege doesn’t apply to consultants. So what I would be doing is I was trying to subpoena them to get them squeal squealing regarding where you’re weak on, or you’ve got something going on and they’re going to be stuck in a rock and a hard place between you. They’re saying what you don’t want them to say or line, and they’re not going to do that. I would say, right. Risk going to jail for, you know, or being in contempt of court and not actually complying with the subpoena. Right. Are they going to do that? No. Why would they go to jail for you? Right. So jail, jail, or write you out. It’s kind of a summary.

Steve Rhode (19:01):
I want you to put on your plaintiff attorney hat for a moment. Sure. And so here’s the situation a, a police department is flying under a COA and they’re flying. Let’s say a Matrice 210. It falls from 25 feet and severely injured or killed somebody. And all of a sudden they’re in the cross hairs and they haven’t had an equivalent or better part one Oh seven education program, no recertification, no flight safety management system, no chief pilot, no approvals. And they were unable to certify that their aircraft was airworthy. And this flight was actually for a different town department other than the police department. And it turns out it’s not really a public aircraft operation as a plaintiff’s attorney. Where would you start?

Jon Rupprecht (20:00):
I would start by running an advertisement saying, have you been recently injured in a drone wreck, you know, call me and I’ll get you the money you deserve. Right. the so that would be a kind of a yeah, there would be some issues there. I mean, so one from a you know, what was there actually potentially negligence here, right? So that’s kind of one aspect of this whole thing because some of these aircraft potentially maybe for whatever reason, right? It just had some type of failure and it wasn’t negligent

Jon Rupprecht (20:32):
By how you were maybe operating. So you kinda have to keep that in mind in the back, just because an aircraft fails doesn’t mean it is negligent, and you’re going to get a judgment against you. However, due to the operational restrictions and part one Oh seven, you could then look at those and say, Hey, had it not been for you, right. If you would have done that, this would have not happened such as, Hey, don’t fly over people. You flew over people, you hit that, that’s a game over you. You, at that point, it’s like tennis, the balls on your court. On the other side, you have to knock it back and show that somehow I guess you weren’t flying over people, or when it went out of control due to software malfunction that was not over people, but because of the software malfunction, it flew.

Jon Rupprecht (21:20):
So that introduces some weirdness and gotchas there. But as time has gone on and drones have become more and more liable, the discussion of a flyaway software malfunction is potentially, maybe mitigated. But even if you were to argue a software discussion saying, Hey, that was the the actual reason for that event. Then the next question is, well, was it foreseeable that these very, very unreliable drones that are plugged with software issues, right? Yeah. That was foreseeable. Right. What did you do to prevent that, right? Did you actually go out to the field and properly, maybe for the new, the latest and greatest hardware? I mean, a firmware update to the batteries of the aircraft. Did you go and fly it and check if there were any issues? I mean, remember when we had the Matrice 200 battery problem, remember that like two, three years ago, right?

Jon Rupprecht (22:09):
Wait, so we had the firmware. Did you go and probably test it out, then log that somewhere just to see. Yeah, we we, we updated things. We tested it out, everything appeared normal. This was something that we at least tried to check for, but it, you know, it evaded our review. So th there’s some things there that can, you could put in, you put together actually, I mean, when you scope this whole thing out, when people kind of say, Hey, what are you doing on the backend? You, you kind of more or less, don’t try to address this from the standpoint of I say like a duty, but I approach things a lot more in the, and, and, and focusing on causation and finding out, Hey, what are the hazards in these particular types of operations due to the environment, the aircraft human factors, lack of training, like knowledge.

Jon Rupprecht (23:00):
And then you try to create mitigations. And a lot of the regulations actually are there safety, mitigations. And so you, I think of it more along that lines. And if, and if police departments fire departments right now, we’re trying to figure out the best way to handle this, try to go through and actually identify all the hazards that are for particular types of given operations, right? You’re doing crash traffic, a crash scene, kind of monitoring. What’s the potential issues there. You’re doing search and rescue at night in the force. What are the risks there? And you’re going to list those. And then you see whether or not your current SOP is properly actually even mitigate for that. Because when you do that, you’ll discover that the remote pilot certificate is, is not going to be really that good at actually properly remedying or ma really mitigating or eliminating some of those problems.

Steve Rhode (23:54):
Yeah. Actually the remote pilot certificate if you’re flying, according to the FARs, you’re actually pretty limited on what you can do. People have it’s seems that they have assumed that you can do things that aren’t really legal. Like for example, an issue that came up recently was I can fly my drone at night as far as three miles away because I can still see the strobe.

Jon Rupprecht (24:20):
No. Yeah, because the problem there is under one Oh seven 31. So, well that depends if you’re doing 91 or one Oh seven operations, if you’re doing one Oh seven operations, then 107.31 specifically says that there’s four elements that you actually need to you actually need to be able to see now, could you do certain things, like take some position lights and put them out on the very far edges of the drone and kind of figure it out that way. Yeah. You could, you can get a little bit further out, but when you actually kind of look at 107.31, you realize real quick that you ended up hitting the BVLOS, like limit quick, quicker at night than you do during the day. And so some people go, I can go farther out. I’m like, no, you have even less during the night. And if you’re now going in further out and you got this little dot, then yeah, you got to go get a one Oh seven 31 a waiver because you’re technically not even determining the orientation of the aircraft really. And then you get into the fun games of telemetry or whatever, and you can say like, well, the telemetry and kind of like this and that. And I kind of know what I’m going there for, but that that’s not a good game to play

Steve Rhode (25:31):
For a public safety agency that it’s better to break a flight rule and take off right now and hope for the best or call the DC hotline number and get an SGA SGI waiver before they take off.

Jon Rupprecht (25:47):
Well, the SGI waiver, most of the, the, okay. So I think probably what you’re better getting at. Cause you’re creating this like weird hypothetical scenario where Hey, I just picked up a drone. I’m trying to save somebodies life. Yeah. Like hypothetically, if you’re going to try to save somebody’s life and you literally picked up the drone, like you’re like some movie action star that ran into like some big box store and pulled it out. And you’re like, I know nothing about drones. I had no time to prepare literally no time to prepare. I’m going to now save. Someone’s like, okay, Hey, you know what? I don’t think anybody’s going to care if you did that. However, for 99.9% of all of the people that are listening in the United States, right. They have more time to actually properly prepare. And so they should properly prepare to, to learn what they’re, what they should be doing and mapping out what are the hazards?

Jon Rupprecht (26:37):
What are the training? What are the different things here and properly pre flighting this at the office prior to actually going and flying and you know, what regulations are we flying in? Are we have, we figured that out replying as public aircraft operators in a part 91 or the public aircraft COA, if so, what are we complying with all the public aircraft statutes per flight and and all of that, did we, are we, where are we honest and actually explaining that to the the consultants or not the consultants, but they, they, they attorneys and stuff that we’re working with because the other problem with this is there’s a lot of people that have run into the area that are giving out all sorts of advice on this. And they, some of them are not attorneys which creates a problem because some of them are actually drafting the public aircraft operations declarations a letter specifically saying, Hey, XYZ entity is compliant with the statutes.

Jon Rupprecht (27:27):
Well, how in the world did you do that within that specific jurisdiction? Since most of the States criminalize the unlicensed practice of law. So hiring a consultant to file your paperwork could potentially open you up into some weirdness. They’re seeing that one, if they messed up that could look really bad. Like, wait, you didn’t hire an attorney. No, I hired this guys cause he sells drones. It’s awesome. You know, he can do it, you know? Okay. Well, that’s probably why, even if he did it correctly and he has the knowledge to, to look at that. It also, it still opens up the, the point of like, well, what, what else to happened here? W w with, with everything that’s going on, did this consultant actually properly do everything just let alone, the fact is unfortunately, whether you like it or not many of the States actually criminalize unlicensed practice of law, like for Florida, it’s a third degree felony to even start providing legal advice when you’re not an attorney, there’s certain exceptions to that such as if you are a licensed CPA and you’re providing tax advice. If you are a patent

Steve Rhode (28:25):
Yeah. Jon, I can think of a direct example here. A company out there is selling a program that allows you to control drones from remotely, from afar, and as part of buying the software, they will help you write that letter

Jon Rupprecht (28:45):
For purposes of public aircraft operations. Then you need to have, you need to kind of think about that in their particular jurisdiction. Are they writing that as a, kind of like a guide or something for you to ultimately send to your County attorney, right? Your city attorney to primarily review kind of as an aid to speed them up so that at the end of the day, but then at the end of the day, you need to ask them a question. Like, are you able to actually do this? Because we have there’s unlicensed practice law in all these States. And so that, that is an issue. I mean, now whether or not a a flight instructor, somebody is competent enough to actually draft one of these. I mean, that’s, that’s not the discussion. It’s unfortunately, that’s what the law is.

Jon Rupprecht (29:31):
And so that kind of brings up the discussion of, you know, are you dealing with a licensed and insured type of people that are filing your paperwork? And that gets into also these other weird areas of like, let’s say the drone mapping and everything right. Where certain state is criminalized, right? I mean, you have that. And that’s been going on a bunch of places, like, so I’m planning on writing some more articles here on that. And I, I Florida has find people for that. California’s had some, I have their letters, North Carolina, I’ve had their, I have their letters. And, and so that creates a lot of issues there. So anytime you hear like a, a consultant saying, Hey, I can help you do regulatory compliance, or I can do drone mapping or whatever. Those are kind of really good, helpful hints that you might want to be asking, whoever’s suggesting or saying those things regarding like, Hey, like, are there any laws here I should be aware of, because it’s also a great way to kind of judge the maturity of those people you might be even working with and whether they’ve thought that out, or like, Oh yeah, we got, we totally got that.

Jon Rupprecht (30:33):
It it’s actually, isn’t, we’ve actually had to work through that. If they say, I don’t know, then you got to kind of be thinking out of that situation. Maybe they’re not that mature and all the other different things. What other things are they not properly mature on? Such as what are the parts of the regulations? Are they properly are the drones that you maybe even purchased? If this was like a homemade drone or some custom job, the are the transmitters within the current FCC legal limits are any of these

Steve Rhode (31:05):
I ran into recently with a department where they weren’t, they, they weren’t able to fly them, but one of the things I look for is, is the person at whatever X company you’re talking to a part of admin legal department, or is this the sales and marketing folks telling you this?

Jon Rupprecht (31:23):
Yeah, that’s a great question. And yeah, that’s a good point. You need to ask some of these questions and it’s just to find out how mature that company is, and if they’re fairly mature, then the salespeople should have been properly trained to a, off the top of their head to answer certain types of questions. Right. So, Hey, can you tell me more about the the what is the export classification of this particular aircraft, right? Is w is it EA or 99 or nine alpha zero one two. If they’re not able to answer these questions quickly, then you got, or at least puts you into somebody who can, then you got ask the question of potentially why do they not know that seeing that more mature businesses typically know those things? And are you dealing with someone here that’s much more interested in just making a sale and maybe sincerely telling you incorrect information, right.

Jon Rupprecht (32:15):
And they’re trying to help you, but they’re just due to being new in the business or whatever there. So these are kind of some good questions. Maybe just ask these people, primarily just a flag, just for your filtering purposes to determine who do you even want to deal with. Right. So I’ve done that multiple times. I’ll ask those questions just to see what they say. Like, I know the answer to your aircraft, but I want to hear you say it back to me because if I don’t hear it, then I’m like, ah, that guy’s not really that up to speed on this. And if he’s not, here’s the potential, he, this guy could be not complying with certain types of regulations and then he could get himself into trouble. And that causes problems because then we might be trying to use him later on for training or purposes or, or purchasing more aircraft.

Jon Rupprecht (32:58):
And there’s, there’s gotchas there because he’s currently dealing with other legal problems because so it’s continuity of operations, right? Because I’m trying to deal with the continuity of operations standpoint. I want to be dealing with people who are reliable who are crossing all their T’s and dotting all their I’s. So some of these points here, just good questions to ask and just fish out to see what the people say back. Right. So, Hey, you can help me file the declaration letter to go for public COA. Well, isn’t that like unlicensed practice of law? How did you handle that? Right. Just ask that question. And if people start tap dancing around it a real quick, simple way to do it is look at the declaration letter that they give you and then call up the state bar association of wherever they’re located and just ask them and you’ll get a quick answer. Just call it the unlicensed practice of law committee at all the bars have one, call them up. Hey, is this unlicensed practice of law?

Steve Rhode (33:54):
I’ve got, I’ve got the perfect answer for this situation. And I’m totally biased, but I would be calling Rupprecht Law and asking you or your firm to review the documents before I ever wanted to file them.

Jon Rupprecht (34:11):
Okay.

Jon Rupprecht (34:15):
The and sometimes when people are also selling certain types of packages, when they’re like, Hey, we can get you a public aircraft co we can go, you know, Bomba. Sometimes those guys are not familiar with all the, the different avenues that you may be able to actually do. So it was like, Hey, why don’t you tell me what’s up? Do you want to do XYZ type of operation? Well, why are you doing a public aircraft operation? Why don’t we do maybe a part, one of seven operation and then scale into a public aircraft operation? Like what, what’s the background there because these are different tools in the tool belt. And so it’s kinda like going to the, the tool store and then that, that person could actually really help you pick out the right tool for the job. You’re not wasting your money and time spinning, spinning your wheels.

Jon Rupprecht (34:54):
We’re at least coming up with a game plan on, on, on what to do. I think actually on my website, I put together a whole entire article comparing the exemptions and the public COA and the public blanket COA, and three, three, three that the 44 Oh sevens now, and kind of the comparison and contrast between all of those. And so you know, that could somewhat help. But there’s, there’s, there’s just a whole host of things that you can also run into, especially if you’re dealing with the if you talk to an attorney that’s knowledgeable in the area that they could clue you in on these particular, maybe legal hazards that you can mitigate primarily before it gets too late that a typical consultants or salesperson might not be aware of. Okay. So a actually told me that the reason they went with the COA was because his pilots could not pass the one Oh seven test. Have you run into that before? No, but I should probably run TV ads or something in that neighborhood or something, but anyways, no.

Speaker 5 (35:54):
So

Jon Rupprecht (35:54):
The the, the there, there, I have not heard of that. But I think that’s actually a really good point there in regards to maybe just upper management properly allocating the time for some of those officers to actually properly study. You know, so that could also be an upper management issue. It’s not just maybe like, you know, was it a, you just have a bunch of sheriffs that are really dumb. Like, I don’t think that’s, that’s the case. I think it could be potentially they have current busy work and they’re trying to take care of bad guys. And they only have so much time to actually properly study. And so why is an upper management assisting them in in, in doing what they need to do, right. To kind of fulfill their third, their job of using the drones. So there’s, there’s a, you need to look at everybody. There’s typically not just one person is the problem here. All right. Well, Jon, I have taken up so much of your time. I have one more question, and I’ve only even asked you half the questions that I had for you, but give us some words of wisdom with your attorney hat on how to handle any aviation issue. If someone has called the physio and complained about your flight operations.

Speaker 5 (37:11):
Good question.

Jon Rupprecht (37:12):
Okay. Here’s some stuff. Okay, so, well, what color did you spray your, what, what color is your drone? Right. Hey, okay. So what would the drone look like? Drones white. We don’t fly white drones, right? So paint your drone. A bunch of weird colors. Nobody would ever fly. Hmm. That’s a good point. We don’t fly white drones. We don’t fly black drones. We have like some ugly, nasty purple with like zebra stripes and clutter. And you’re like, nobody flies that. And you’re like, exactly. That’s why we fly that. So when somebody says, Hey, you know, that was you, you were violating my privacy. And you’re like, Nope, that was somebody else.

Jon Rupprecht (38:02):
We’ll do pilots. Do drone pilots need to even be worried if someone from the FAA contacts them. Yes. I mean, everything you say can, will be used against you, you know? So you gotta be careful how you handle that because you could have you could have done something or there potentially. I mean, I don’t know how many times I’ve had phone calls where people are they’re potentially on the receiving end of something, maybe, and then there, it wasn’t them either flying a white drone, just like the other white drones. Right? So in the white whoever’s, it is right. Does something bad and you just have to be in the area. Then everyone’s really like a, like a bunch of Hornets, angry, running around, looking for whoever or whatever is in there with a white drone. And so you don’t, you might be on the wrong end of an investigation and caused some issues there.

Jon Rupprecht (38:52):
You might want to think clearly, especially how, just this whole conversation here th this is an issue that you need to work out with your current city town, you know, whatever your supervising attorney is. And potentially maybe some outside counsel that is all figured out prior to something happening. Because if you guys have this whole hot potato dumped in your lap, and you’re trying to call me up, I’m not going to be trying to like, figure out how to pick up a new client. Why you’re, why you got a giant mess, you know? Cause at the end of day, that’s your mess. Not my mess. You remember that whole be prepared thing, guys, you guys all go on and on about the glove and per bird, or I got a train, like whatever, from like a fight night fight, like your train or whatever.

Jon Rupprecht (39:27):
And it’s like, well, okay. So that’s, that’s a really important point because also you’re probably like, well, what’s what can go on here. There’s different dynamics. Because for example, maybe you use that drone to potentially go and find the bad guy. Okay. Or maybe the, you you’re just supervising an area. And there was a, there was a bad guy or gut another guy in the mix with the drones. And then you went after him some capacity and the prosecutor’s going after him. They get me as a criminal defense attorney involved. Well, then I can use the whole situation as that in triangulation to try to see if I can figure out anything on you guys what’s dirt. And then maybe say, Hey, well, that’s interesting that the cops are also dirty as well. And you’re probably like, does that happen? You’re like, no, I did that actually to a a law enforcement agency in a previous court case because they had dirty hands too.

Jon Rupprecht (40:17):
So and Oh yeah, that’d be really a bummer. If the feds were to come after you guys, you see how this got really like awkward because now all of a sudden, you thought you had it over on the other guy, but then the criminal defense attorneys, like you have dirty hands too. And you’re like, Ooh, wait a second. The FAA could come after us too. Are you guys right? You know, like what do we say? And everyone’s like, so that’s, that’s why I’ve told people over and over again, like he fly lawfully all the time, because if you’re not, I’m going to request the, the telemetry data. I’m going to try to find out, you know, if you’re ever doing anything wrong, anywhere to, if I was on the on the other side to, to potentially look at like, Hey, these guys are actually properly coloring within the lines all the time when they’re not being supervised.

Steve Rhode (41:06):
Well, that’s a point I brought up earlier, which is if you are using a software program, which is saving the telemetry data of all the drones that you’re flying and you and your department one or a hundred or whatever, and the majority of your flights violate some aviation regulation beyond the line of sight, whatever it is. I mean, it doesn’t that, it just seems like that creates a whole big discoverable, melting pot of information. That’s just to say, you don’t really operate safely.

Jon Rupprecht (41:36):
Yeah. It’s so simple. It’s like, Hey, let me see your telemetry. I’m going to look at your telemetry. I’m gonna see where you took off from. Let me see where the aircraft is. I’m going to just ask you a quick question, like, Hey, tell me about your vision. Can I ask some questions about it? Right. What, tell me about your vision, right? You’re wearing your glasses. Okay. Okay. And the 20/20 vision, right. Or something. Okay. Okay. All right. I’m going to now plug that into some PR some formulas and stuff I have I can then calculate your max visual ability that you’ll be able to actually fly beyond line of sight. And then I got ya. It’s, it’s like a real simple number. It’s like there’s crash scene investigation guys, where they can go on the skid tracks and this and that you were going this speed.

Jon Rupprecht (42:15):
I can do the same and go based upon that aircraft and the size of it in your visual acuity, I can actually run those numbers and be like, yeah. Pretty much he was at, he was beyond the line of site at which point if that was a contributory cause to the situation, then that’s an issue, right? If it wasn’t, then it’s no harm, no foul. I can maybe bring that up as a purpose, as a point of saying, well, these guys color outside the lines when they don’t think they’re getting caught. And here’s an example of it. I wonder what else is going on. Right. Do, as I say, not as I do, it kind of makes you look bad, but I don’t know if that’s going to be I mean, that’s a, I would bring that up maybe in a criminal defense situation for a personal injury or something. If it didn’t lead to the cause of the crash or the injury or whatever, right. Then that’s something I might, might bring up. But there’s a there’s there’s tools in the tool belt that the attorneys have to ambush the other side, that there’s tons of telemetry.

Steve Rhode (43:08):
I want to get your gut reaction on this and then I’ll let you go. I’m sorry. No problem. W I have pilots, public safety pilots that are test flying to actually determine how far visual line of sight actually is under 107.31. And I’m going to tell you two numbers and you tell me what your gut reaction is for a Mavic. If you’re staring at the aircraft and you’re determining best guess, good guess altitude attitude, direction of flight you know, all of the requirements. If you constantly stare at it it gets out to about 1200 feet before you can’t determine the position accurately. If you look away from the aircraft, it only has to go about 800 feet. Do you have a gut reaction to that?

Jon Rupprecht (44:07):
Well, I wouldn’t even, I wouldn’t even have a gut reaction. I would just plug it into a calculator and then try to calculate it with my, my stuff. So what we were saying, it was a Maverick to mapping to what are the, what’s the, what’s the smallest dimension on the Mavic 2?

Steve Rhode (44:22):
No, I w I, I will tell you that.

Jon Rupprecht (44:26):
Yeah. And just everybody on everybody’s like listening, like what’s going on? How’s he doing this? Okay. The dimension is, can I give it to you in millimeters? I need inches. Yeah. Probably like, ah, nah, I didn’t convert them. Like how do you do that? Nobody knows how to do that. Well, what’s okay. What’s the millimeters then I can convert it. It is 64 is the smallest 64 millimeters is the smallest. That’s the height. Okay. So the 66, right. You said 64 64. So 64 millimeters six. Okay. And then what’s the next largest dimension one, six, eight meters. Millimeters.

Jon Rupprecht (45:23):
Okay. So let me just plug this in right in here. And, and my calculation is coming out to 1,894 for that would be your best case scenario. You’d be able to even see that aircraft one Oh seven point 31 reduction would be less than that. So, so the thing is, I don’t have to prove your one Oh seven 31. I just proved that you hit this or you’re beyond this number, which I know is a little bit beyond the one to seven 31, boom. You’re done. And I can figure that out from telemetry. So I love that. And you’re done.

Jon Rupprecht (46:02):
All right, Jon man, I have taken up way too much of your time. This has been such a pleasure. I really appreciate it and hopefully I can reach out to you again. Yeah. If you, yeah. Feel free to, and then, you know, there’s a bunch of stuff on my website. I know regarding tools and different study guides and all sorts of articles. And so yeah, that’s actually I was playing with this, this tool here on my website the visual kind of set of cue, you know, that this cool. So that’s how I calculated it. All right, man, take care. All right. Hey, good chat with you. Bye bye.

Steve Outro (46:38):
This is Steve Rhode, your friendly chief pilot here at the public safety flight website. Be sure to visit PSflight.org to get in on my private email list, read all the latest posts or ask me all of your public safety, drone questions. That’s PSflight.org. Or if that trips you up, you can land in the right place by using PublicSafetyFlight.org.

About Steve Rhode

The Public Safety Flight website is dedicated to news, honest information, tips, and stories about the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), UAVs, aircraft, and drones in the fire service and other public safety niches.The site was founded by Steve Rhode, an FAA-certificated airplane commercial and instrument certificated pilot and a very experienced Part 107 UAS commercial pilot. Steve is the Chief Pilot with the Wake Forest Fire Department and the North Carolina Public Safety Drone Academy. He also provides expert advice to drone pilots through Homeland Security Information Network and he is an FAA Safety Team drone expert. Steve loves to work closely with public safety pilots to answer questions and share information, real-world truth, and drone operation advice. You can contact Steve here, learn more about Steve here, or join his public safety pilot private email list here.

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