Launching Drones: Legal & Corporate Compliance

Director of Strategy Planning and Business Development at Skyward

Drones have a lot to offer an enterprise as far as productivity, safety, and results are concerned. But they also introduce new, though small, risks. Before your drone program can get off the ground, corporate lawyers and risk managers are going to want proof that you can keep potential liability within acceptable limits. 

After all, it’s their responsibility to hold off on any program they consider to be too dangerous.

So what can you do to gain their approval?

Your first step is to meet with your legal and risk management teams and understand their concerns. Show them your general operating manual—it will save time for everyone and show you’re committed to creating a compliant program. With your manual as your baseline, consider the following practices:

Integrate compliance into the drone workflow

Establish internal practices that go above and beyond national airspace regulations and local ordinances. For example, even though Part 107 in the U.S. does not require you to obtain permission to fly over private property in all areas, you should have an internal policy requiring operators to gain the property owner’s consent. It will help you avoid lawsuits and improve relationships with your customers and the public. As you work with your corporate lawyers, they may suggest or require additional policies that are more stringent than the law.

Know airspace restrictions and drone airspace regulations

Airspace regulations have the force of law. A pilot who flies in restricted airspace risks huge consequences for your entire program, including fines or loss of privileges. In case of such an incident, corporate compliance might even have to shut your program down. Don’t let this happen to your company!

Check an accurate, up-to-date airspace map like Skyward before every flight. Pilots need to be aware of the class of airspace they’re flying in, as well as any current or future temporary flight restrictions. Since Skyward is an FAA-acknowledged UAS Service Supplier for airspace authorization in U.S. controlled airspace, you can be sure the information on Skyward’s airspace map is current, valid, and accurate.

Maintain a transparent audit trail and refine future processes

Your executives, corporate legal team, and outside auditors will need to see ongoing records of your entire operation. That’s why it’s essential to log flights in a thorough and detailed manner—it proves your safe practices, careful planning, and professional execution.

With Skyward, companies can store records of each flight and operation, including date, time, personnel, equipment, classes of airspace, and more. With one centralized source for all your flight records from planning to closeout, you don’t have to pull together details from multiple systems in several locations. You can even give your lawyers and compliance team access to your Skyward account so they can check in whenever they want. You can be fully transparent, save time, and reduce headaches for everyone.

Once you’ve gathered all your data, refine your processes based on what you learn. Analyze incidents and adjust your procedures so your methods become more reliable. There’s plenty of room for adjustment as you learn the most efficient ways to run your drone ops.

Track Drone & Battery Maintenance and Inventory

Keeping your fleet airworthy means more than occasionally checking up on your aircraft—it means rotating batteries, tracking what equipment is used for each flight, and logging every maintenance event for each aircraft. This allows you to identify signs of wear on your aircraft and prevent an incident before it happens. Documentation may not be the most exciting part of your drone program, but it’s vital to understanding your equipment, increasing safety, and reducing the cost of upkeep over time.