PPP Update: UC Merced announces Development Team

From Nossaman's Infra Insight blog, by Yukiko Kojima and Frank Liu:

The University of California regents announced last week that it had selected Plenary Properties Merced as the successful proposer for the UC Merced 2020 Project.  The team includes Plenary Group as the equity member, Webcor Builders as the lead contractor, Skidmore Owings & Merrill as the lead planner, and Johnson Controls as the lead operations and maintenance team.

The project is the first higher education availability payment P3 project to be awarded in the United States, and may well serve as a template for future higher education capital projects, both within the UC system and nationally, if successfully completed.  “UC Merced, the youngest campus in our system, is poised to become a model for our other campuses as we look for the most efficient ways to construct, operate and maintain facilities that enable us to pursue our teaching, research and public service missions,” said UC President Janet Napolitano.

The scope of the public-private partnership is also significantly larger than any other public facilities project in the U.S., and is intended to nearly double the capacity of the campus, and permit a nearly 50% increase in student capacity within five to seven years.

For more information about the UC Merced 2020 Project, click here.  


Drone Law Update: The Regulations

On June 21, the Federal Aviation administration published the final regulations for commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems ("UAS"), which most of us know as "drones."  Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced:

“We are part of a new era in aviation, and the potential for unmanned aircraft will make it safer and easier to do certain jobs, gather information, and deploy disaster relief.  We look forward to working with the aviation community to support innovation, while maintaining our standards as the safest and most complex airspace in the world.”

The rules require keeping the vehicle within visual line of sight, and permit operation only in daylight and during twilight (if the drone has anti-collision lights).  The FAA has also set up a waiver procedure for some portions of the regulations, and will have an online portal available to apply for the waivers.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta explained the fact that these rules are the beginning of the process, and not the end:

"With this new rule, we are taking a careful and deliberate approach that balances the need to deploy this new technology with the FAA’s mission to protect public safety.  But this is just our first step. We’re already working on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.”

The FAA's regulations do not cover privacy or information gathering issues, but the administration announced in its press release that it will attempt to educate all drone pilots regarding local and state government laws, as well as the National Telecommunications and Information Adminstration's privacy "best practices" model.

To read the entire rule, click here.  For the FAA's Fact Sheet, click here


Drone Law Update: The Commercial Rules Are Coming

Forbes has reported that, ahead of tomorrow's expected release of the FAA's commercial drone reglations,  drone lawyer Peter Sachs obtained a leaked copy of the summary of the new Part 107 drone rules and posted the summary to his website.

According to Mr. Sachs, the summary was obtained on a publicly accessible government website.

The posted summary includes some interesting changes from the February 2015 notice of proposed rulemaking.  Those changes include setting the minimum age for a pilot to 16, lowering the maximum altitude for drone flight to 400 feet, imposition of an English language requirement for operators, and permitting manned aircraft certificate holders to only take and pass an online test.

The new regulations are also expected to be less onerous than those for obtaining a 333 exemption.  The report indicates the new regulations will eliminate the requirement of a manned aircraft pilot's license, a visual observer, the requirement to hold a certificate of authorization, and the requirement to issue a notice to airmen before each flight.

And if the expectations are met, tomorrow we should have the regulations themselves, and the new world of drone use will begin.


Drones: You Can't Shoot Them Down, But...

Fortune Magazine raises this provocative question - Since the FAA has declared unequivocally that drones are aircraft, why won't it prosecute anyone who shoots a drone out of the sky?  Section 32 of Title 18 of the United States Code prohibits using firearms to interfere with aircraft, and there have been a dozen or more publicized cases of private citizens shooting at drones.  However, even though the FAA has said the conduct is illegal, none of the shooters have been prosecuted under the federal criminal statute.


Drone Updates

Safran Law Offices continues to be watching developments relating to unmanned aerial vehicles -- UAV's or also known as "drones" -- and in the past few weeks, some interesting news has come out.


  • The main drone lobbying body has splintered into subgroups.  Previously, there was the Small UAV Coalition, that included all of the commercial-oriented, consumer-oriented, and manufacturing-oriented interests.  Now the manufacturers have split off to form their own Drone Manufacturers' Alliance.  The first four members of DMA are DJI, 3D Robotics, Parrot, and GoPro.  People who follow the industry saw this schism coming because as the platform matures, the interests of manufacturers and users have diverged.  For instance, regulations will eventually require some form of geofencing technology.  Manufacturers will have an incentive to push that requirement as an aftermarket responsibility onto the users, while users would likely expect that to be an industry standard for manufacturers.  For more info on this story, see this Fortune Magazine article.
  • As part of its periodic reauthorization legislation, the FAA is expected to receive specific pre-emption authority over drones, which would explicitly limit state and local powers to regulate the UAV's.  This pre-emption power already exists in general terms over all aircraft, which the FAA claims covers drones as well as manned vehicles.  The new legislation, if passed as drafted, would make that drone jurisdiction explicit.  The Cato Institute has a good report on this.
  • The FAA reauthorization has also been caught up in election-year budget politics.  The bill is going through mark-ups with the Senate this week, and is receiving criticism from conservative groups including the Heritage Foundation.  Because of the limited schedule for legislative days remaining, the FAA may end up with a short-term reauthorization, putting the drone policy provisions (and others) off for a future Congress.

For more information on drone law, and how these issues may affect your construction business, please call us at 919-828-1396.