The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has finally announced its proposed rules governing the commercial use of drones.  The proposed rules, which have been long-awaited by members of the emerging multi-billion dollar unmanned aerial vehicle industry, pave the way for the commercial use of drones in the United States.  The proposed rules, released on February 15, 2015, are applicable to all commercial drones under 55 pounds.  The rules would require such drones to operate only in daylight hours below a 500 foot altitude ceiling and under a 100 mph airspeed limit.

The proposed rule would also prohibit the operation of commercial drones in the vicinity of other aircraft or known flight paths and, significantly, would prohibit the operation of drones above any people not involved in the operation of the drone.  One restriction in particular is likely to receive significant attention during the upcoming comment section for the proposed rule.  That proposal requires that drones only be operated within the unaided visual-line-of-site of their operators. Such a limitation, combined with a proposed prohibition of dropping any objects from a drone, is certain to impact various publicized plans for commercial drone delivery services.
Continue Reading FAA Clears Way for Commercial Drone Use

E-cigarettes continue to come under fire from numerous groups, as shown by several events in the last week. Scientists from Portland State University, in a January 22 letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, contend that e-cigarette use may carry a risk of cancer 5 to 15 times greater than the risk associated with traditional cigarettes. That conclusion is based on data showing e-cigarette vapers may inhale formaldehyde-releasing agents. The researchers conceded that “[h]ow formaldehyde-releasing agents behave in the respiratory tract is unknown.” However, they estimated a vaper’s daily exposure to formaldehyde could be more than 4.5 times that of a pack-a-day cigarette smoker. This study relates exclusively to e-cigarettes used on high voltage settings – at lower voltages, the scientists detected no formaldehyde.  And the study extrapolated the results from a single test without considering real-world vaping habits, which have not been studied well to date.

Continue Reading Cancer Concerns, Proposed New Regulations Dog E-Cigarette Industry

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals will soon be deciding an issue that could dramatically impact the liabilities aircraft product manufacturers may face.  Specifically, the court will address the question of whether a certificate issued by the FAA precludes design defect claims against aircraft product manufacturers. 

The appeal stems from the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania’s dismissal of certain product liability claims in Sikkelee v. AVCO Corp.  The district court relied on the 1999 case of Abdullah v. American Airlines, Inc., a passenger-injury case against American Airlines, in determining that the claims are preempted by the Federal Aviation Act. 
Continue Reading Manufacturers Await Decision on Whether Federal Aviation Act Precludes Design Defect Claims