Drone Accident Lawyers
Representing Victims of Drone Crashes in California and Nationwide
The personal and commercial use of drones in the U.S. has grown rapidly
within the last five years – and that growth is expected to continue.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates the number of drones
in the U.S. to reach seven million by 2020. Commercial drones, or drones
used to make money, are expected to increase from 600,000 in 2016 to over
2.7 million by 2020.
While increased drone usage will surely bring new and exciting economic
opportunity for business, more drones in the sky will also bring more
risk for drone crashes and drone injuries. Drones are equipped with multiple
sharp metallic blades that can easily inflict serious damage to a person
If you have been harmed in a drone accident, it is in your best interest
to speak with an attorney about the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Our drone lawyers at Wisner Baum will fight for compensation on your behalf
to hold any negligent parties responsible for your drone injuries.
For more information on filing a drone lawsuit,
please fill out our contact form.
What Is a Drone?
While the general public uses the term “drone,” the industry
term is Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) or Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle (UAV).
A drone is an aircraft without a pilot onboard: Instead, a person operates
the aircraft from the ground. Drones vary widely in size and weight –
they can be as small as a magazine or as large as a
Drones are generally used for three different purposes: public, civil and
recreation. Public use includes operations for the U.S. government where
the FAA issues a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) permitting
use. Civil use is defined as a commercial, non-governmental operation
and requires approval via a Section 333 exception or Special Airworthiness
Certificate (SAC) from the FAA. Drone use by hobbyists is the most prevalent
in the U.S. today, and while FAA approval is not generally required in
order to fly the most common drones, there are specific guidelines that
recreational drone users must follow.
Five Common Drone Uses
Below is a sample of the most common uses for drones in the United States:
Attack Drones – Armed with weapons, these drones are used by the military for
controlled air strikes in hostile or inaccessible areas.
Crowd Control Drones – Commonly used by the military and law enforcement agencies, crowd
control drones are equipped with non-lethal weapons like tear gas or sound
cannons. These drones can initiate crowd dispersion without causing serious
Delivery Drones – Delivery drones were initially developed for military and government
use, so users could remotely drop items in a chosen area. By now, many
of us have heard that companies like DHL and Amazon want to make delivery
drones the new normal for delivering products to consumers. If used safely
and effectively, delivery drones could effectively cut down on shipping
time, minimize cost and reduce traffic congestion.
Monitoring Drones – Equipped with technology like infrared cameras and severe weather
instruments, monitoring drones can be used for anything from scientific
research to preventing crime. For example, a monitoring drone is capable
of getting closer than a police helicopter, so these drones have numerous
crime fighting capabilities. They can also assist fire officials in fighting
wild fires. Last, but not least, monitoring drones can be used for scientific
research purposes, like seeing firsthand what it
looks like inside a tornado.
Photo or Video Drones – Ever popular in the art of filmmaking, photo and video drones are making
aerial shots more affordable than ever before. It used to be that filmmakers
would have to hire helicopters or small planes to get the footage they
needed. Now, even amateur filmmakers can simply attach a GoPro camera
to a drone and get stunning aerial photography on par with the big movie studios.
Recent Drone Crashes
At Wisner Baum, our experienced lawyers are intimately familiar with the
damage that can be caused in drone crashes.
helicopter accidents, plane crashes and property damage are just a few examples of major accidents
that can happen as a result of a drone collision. The increased popularity
of drones has also increased the risk for drone crashes and drone injuries.
Below are some of the most serious civilian drone accidents reported in
the last few years:
January 2015 – Drone crash lands on White House lawn. Operator Shawn Usman borrowed
a quadcopter drone from a friend and was flying it from a window in his
downtown Washington D.C. apartment at around 3:00 a.m. when he says it
ascended to an altitude of 100 feet, then flew in a westerly direction.
Usman tried to regain control, but couldn’t. The quadcopter drone
crashed on White House grounds. No one was injured, but the Secret Service
was forced to put the White House on lockdown as a precaution. The U.S.
attorney didn’t charge Usman, finding that the drone was not under
his control when it crashed.
September 2015 – Drone crashes within feet of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
A member of the German ‘Pirate Party’ piloted a drone that
crashed only a few feet away from Angela Merkel while she was delivering
a speech. The drone pilot was protesting government surveillance. No one
was injured, but the incident did bring up questions about how drones
can impact safety and security.
December 2014 – Drone crashes into a customer at a New York City restaurant. A
New York City restaurant was using a drone to fly mistletoe over customers
when it crashed into their photographer. The fast moving, sharp blades
sliced off a piece of her nose and cut her chin.
April 2014 – Australian triathlete sustains injuries after drone crash. Raija
Ogden, an Australian triathlete, was injured when a drone crashed into
her while she was competing in the Geraldton Endure Batavia triathlon
in Western Australia. A videographer was using the drone to film footage
of the race when he lost control of the aircraft. He claims that a spectator
in the crowd stole control of the drone, causing it to crash.
August 2013 – Drone crashes into grandstand at Virginia’s Great Bull Run.
At least four spectators at the Virginia Motorsports Park for the Great
Bull Run were injured when a drone crashed into the grandstand. The aerial
photography drone was hovering above the stands when it suddenly fell
from the sky into the crowd.
Other Drone Incidents
According to FAA statistics, pilots reported over 700 drone near misses
between January and August of 2015, roughly triple the amount for the
entire year of 2014. FAA documents also showed that at least a dozen drones
had interfered with military aircraft flying near U.S. bases or restricted
areas over the same time span.
Examples of drone near-misses and other incidents in recent years:
December 2015 – Drone flies approximately five feet away from a helicopter in
California.The helicopter was at an altitude of 1,000 feet when the pilot
reported seeing a UAS as close as five feet from the chopper.
November 2015 – Drone nearly collides with helicopter leaving St. Louis Children’s
Hospital.A medical helicopter pilot reported seeing a drone about 1,400
feet above a city park. The air ambulance was forced to make a sweeping
turn, narrowly avoiding a drone crash by less than 100 feet.
September 2015 – American Airlines pilots forced to take evasive action to avoid
drone. In one of the scariest drone near misses reported to date, the
pilots of American Airlines Flight 475 were forced to take evasive action
to avoid colliding with a drone after taking off from Atlanta, Georgia.
The plane was climbing to 3,500 feet when the drone incident occurred.
March 2015 – FAA investigates drone flying too close to KOMO News helicopter.
A helicopter crew working for KOMO News in Washington spotted a drone
flying only a few feet above the chopper. The helicopter was filming a
fire in Pierce County at the time.
December 2014 – Drone nearly hits Airbus A320 during approach to Heathrow Airport.
The pilot of an Airbus A320 said the drone nearly hit the plane while
at an altitude of about 700 feet. A total of 180 people were onboard at
the time. Investigators were unable to identify the drone, as it didn’t
show up on radar and disappeared after the incident.
FAA Drone Regulations
On June 21, 2016, the FAA released long awaited operational rules for routine
commercial use of small drones. The recently proposed FAA drone regulations
are scheduled to take effect in August of 2016. One new drone law in particular,
Part 107, offers safety regulations for UAS that conduct commercial operations
and for drones that weigh less than 55 pounds.
The new drone regulations establish the following key requirements:
- Per the new FAA drone regulations, drone operators must always avoid manned
aircraft and never operate in a careless or reckless manner.
- According to the FAA, drone pilots need to keep unmanned aircraft within
visual line of sight. If the drone pilot uses ‘First Person View’
or similar technology, the pilot must have a visual observer always maintain
unaided sight (no binoculars). However, even if the pilot uses a visual
observer, the drone must still remain close enough to see, in the event
that something unexpected happens. Neither the drone pilot nor a visual
observer can be responsible for more than one UAS operation at a time.
- Operations are only allowed in daylight hours or during twilight (30 minutes
before scheduled sunrise and 30 minutes after scheduled sunset, local
time), provided the drone is equipped with “anti-collision lights.”
- Maximum altitude a drone can reach is 400 feet, higher if the drone remains
within 400 feet of a structure. Maximum speed is 100 miles-per-hour.
- Per the FAA drone regulations, pilots cannot fly over anyone not directly
participating in the operation. Likewise, operators cannot fly under a
covered structure or inside a covered stationary vehicle.
- Drone pilots flying in Class G airspace are permitted to do so without
permission from air traffic control. Drone pilots flying in Class B, C,
D or E airspace need approval from air traffic control.
According to the FAA, drone operators can affix an external load to the
aircraft, provided the load is securely attached and does not adversely
affect flight. Operators may also transport cargo for compensation within
state boundaries, as long as the total of the attached systems, payload
and cargo weigh less than 55 pounds (Some state exemptions apply,
see Part 107 for full details).
Drone Waivers for Business
Businesses that wish to use drones outside of the above restrictions can
apply for a waiver through the FAA. To qualify for a waiver, businesses
must prove that their proposed drone use is safe.
According to FAA administrator Michael Huerta, 76 businesses have been
approved for these waivers, most of which allow businesses to operate
commercial drones after dark.
Commercial Drone Pilot Certification
Per FAA drone regulations, in order to operate a commercial drone under
Part 107, you must obtain a remote pilot airman certificate with a small
UAS rating, or be under the supervision of someone who has the certification.
To qualify for a remote pilot airman certification, a person 16 years
of age or older must do one of two things:
- Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge
- If you already have a Part 61 pilot certificate (other than student pilot
certificate), you must have completed a flight review within the previous
24 months, and you must take an FAA UAS training course.
Recreational Drone Operators
Anyone who wishes to fly a drone recreationally does not have to have the
FAA’s permission, as long as a few requirements are met. Per FAA
drone regulations, recreational drone operators must register their UAS
if it weighs more than .55 pounds and less than 55 pounds. Operators are
also required to label their UAS with their registration number, and read
and understand all drone safety guidelines. Recreational drone operators
are required to keep their drone in their line of site and always be aware
of airspace requirements.
They are also forbidden from violating these restrictions:
- Flying UAS in excess of 400 feet
- Flying UAS near other aircraft or airports
- Flying UAS over groups of people
- Flying UAS over stadiums or other public gatherings
- Flying UAS near emergency response units
- Flying UAS under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Drone No Fly Zones
Federal drone laws also prohibit UAS from flying in specific areas. Drone
no fly zones include:
- Temporary Flight Restrictions (Events)
- Prohibited and Restricted Airspace (such as around the White House or Camp David)
- Any National Parks or lands operated by the National Park Service
- NOAA Marine Protection Areas
Call an Experienced Drone Accident Lawyer
If you have been injured in a drone accident, you may be wondering about
your rights. While drone law is new and constantly changing at the federal
and state level, in many cases, negligent drone operators and manufacturers
of defective drones may be held liable for any injuries caused in certain
In order to obtain justice in a drone lawsuit, it must be proven that the
drone operator was negligent by failing to act with reasonable care, and
that negligence was the cause of the drone crash that resulted in injuries.
Likewise, if a drone maker is to be named in a drone lawsuit, it must
be proven that the company provided inadequate instructions for operation,
insufficient safety controls, or manufactured a defective product. If
your drone lawsuit is successful, it is possible to recover losses stemming
from medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.