Thursday, November 6, 2014


Part 6:  Why should the hobbyist drone user care about regulations pertaining to “commercial” drone flyers? 

First, who knows when FAA will expand the definition of “commercial use” to include what you are currently doing? 

Second, the drone community is desperately in need of innovation.  We still have drones that don’t fly straight, fly away out of the control of the user, and just last weekend I personally witnessed another drone pilot have his $1,300 drone turn upside down and augur into the ground from 150’ or so feet, destroying the unit.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have, or Google, or Dominos Pizza pumping major money into R&D to give us all better drones?  Is this going to happen with FAA basically prohibiting all commercial use outside of the arctic?  Not in this country.  Where will the large companies that would afford a few million a year for R&D go?  Other countries.  If you were, would you try to develop new drone technology here in the US (where, my guess is that they could not even test their drones under the FAA rules), or in Hong Kong, where drone regulations take up a single page of paper and basically come down to “use common sense”?  The answers to these questions are obvious, and, if this is the future of drones in the US, will put us in a position where we are playing catch-up with foreign countries on technology.

TO DRONE OR NOT TO DRONE - Does Amazon Prime avoid the “commercial” classification?

PART  V - Does Amazon Prime avoid the “commercial” classification and why penalize US farmers?

Example 3:
You can use a drone to move a box from point to point without any kind of compensation, but you cannot use a drone to deliver packages to people for a fee. is obviously the main issue here, as Amazon would like to use drones to deliver packages to people.  Here is a new angle, I’m a member of Amazon Prime, so I get my packages delivered for free.  If Amazon delivers my packages for free, with a drone, is it commercial?  I would argue it is not, as I would not be charged whether it arrives by UPS or drone, and I would much prefer drone as it would get here in 10 minutes rather than 2 days.

Example 4:
You can use a drone to survey a field of crops “grown for personal enjoyment”, but not as part of a commercial farming operation.  This is, in my opinion, ludicrous.  Precision agriculture is extremely important for our country (and those other countries that buy our exported agricultural products).  Why put us at a competitive disadvantage against those countries which regularly use drones to perform these functions?

Friday, October 17, 2014


Example 2:  Taking photographs with a drone for personal use is OK, but realtors can’t use their own drones to photograph a property they are selling, and a drone photographer can’t take pictures of a “property or event” and sell them to  someone else.  So, what if a home-owner takes some personal photos of a house, then later decides to sell the house, can the home-owner post the photos on a “sell-it-yourself” real estate website?  Can the home-owner give the photos to a realtor who will then use them to try to sell the house for the homeowner?  Should there be a distinction between photos taken before the home-owner lists the house or sale and those taken after the house has been listed for sale (at which point it could be said that the home-owner clearly intended to use the drone photos to sell the house)?

Over the past several months, I have seen a decided decrease in the number of drone operators who are clearly offering to shoot drone footage of real estate or other structures for a price.  I have been personally following about five of these operators and suddenly they no longer offer footage for dollars, but rather talk about providing all-encompassing “solutions” to problems.  So, is a “solution” that offers $10,000 of “consultation” with a free drone video thrown in “commercial”, or are they still “hobbyists”?

A category that the FAA didn’t directly address but which stands out in my mind is when people use drones for clearly “indirectly-commercial” purposes.  For example, a number of outfits that either sell drones or sell services related to drones have all sorts of cool YouTube videos showing one of more of a) their skills as drone pilots, b) their complete disregard for FAA and other drone-related guidelines in what I consider to be an entirely inappropriate attempt to be “the cool rebel”, or c) how well their drone-related products work.  None of these groups are actually taking cash for their flights, but all clearly are using drones to build an image they hope result in sales of their products or their services.  Are these “commercial flights”?

If you shot a cool YouTube video from your drone and you put an advertising message at the beginning, does this transform an otherwise “hobby” flight into a commercial one?

My wife and I just completed a project in Thailand where we flew our drone over the roof of a Buddhist temple, then edited the footage to show the monks where they had missing roof tiles, birds nesting in the rafters, and even plants growing out of the side of the temples.  We didn’t ask for any money from the monks, and the project was definitely one of the most fun and worthwhile things I have ever done, but if posting the video results a lot of people noticing the resort my wife and I own in Thailand, were they “commercial flights”?

Friday, October 10, 2014

TO DRONE OR NOT TO DRONE - Part III- So What Really Is "Commercial Use"?

So what really is “commercial use”?

Let’s begin with the FAA guidelines.  FAA recently released a document that included examples of what they considered “hobby” and “commercial” uses of drones.  Let’s look at these examples and see what light they may shed on the subject.

Example 1:  Flying a model aircraft at the local model aircraft club is “hobby”, but receiving money for demonstrating aerobatics with a model aircraft is “commercial”.  OK, but what about a “drone competition”, where everyone who enters has to pay a $20 entry fee and the winner gets a grand prize of $200.  Is the winner doing is “commercially”?  Is the group putting on the event “commercial” because they are taking money to have other people fly drones?  Is the result different if the winner gets a free drone as a prize?  What about a free weekend at a local resort?  Is this “commercial”?  What if a major resort sponsored the event and gave away a free weekend at their resort for the grand champion drone flyer, but made all contestants agree that the resort could use their footage they shot during the event.  Does that make the resort fall under “commercial use”?  

I just attended a drone conference in Las Vegas where each day the organizers drew names from a hat and the winner won a free drone.  The organizers didn’t fly any drones but clearly used the lure of a free drone to get attendees there.  What if the organizers had hosted a drone-flying exhibition as part of the conference, and gave away a free drone as part of a raffle, would the “drone-flying” part of the conference make it “commercial”?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

InterContinental IP Sponsors "Steam Maker Fest San Diego"

Meet Eric Hanscom, managing attorney at InterContinental IP, Carlsbad, CA.   He will be at the Steam Maker Fest in San Diego, as a sponsor and will provide valuable information to help  inventors protect their ideas.

Event will take place on  Saturday, December 6th, 2014 from 10am to 5pm (PST) at the Del Mar Fairgrounds so buy your tickets early.   You Can Buy Tickets Here!

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Part 2:  FAA position:  I quote from the FAA’s website, entitled “Busting Myths about the FAA and Unmanned Aircraft”.  

A few choice excerpts:

Myth #2: Commercial UAS flights are OK if I'm over private property and stay below 400 feet.

You may not fly a UAS for commercial purposes by claiming that you’re operating according to the Model Aircraft guidelines (below 400 feet, 3 miles from an airport, away from populated areas.)  Commercial operations are only authorized on a case-by-case basis. A commercial flight requires a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot and operating approval.   To date, only one operation has met these criteria, using Insitu's ScanEagle, and authorization was limited to the Arctic.”

So, to fly commercially you need a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot, and operating approval.  Oh, and FAA has only approved one operation and that was limited to flying in the Arctic.  Yep, glad I didn’t sell my patent law firm to become a commercial drone pilot!

“Myth #3: Commercial UAS operations are a “gray area” in FAA regulations.
Fact—There are no shades of gray in FAA regulations. Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft—manned or unmanned—in U.S. airspace needs some level of FAA approval.”
OK,  let’s see how the appeal in Trappy v. FAA goes.  FAA lost the first round, but will be putting in their best efforts on the appeal.
OK, now for the best one:

Myth #4: There are too many commercial UAS operations for the FAA to stop.

Fact—The FAA has to prioritize its safety responsibilities, but the agency is monitoring UAS operations closely. Many times, the FAA learns about suspected commercial UAS operations via a complaint from the public or other businesses. The agency occasionally discovers such operations through the news media or postings on internet sites.  When the FAA discovers apparent unauthorized UAS operations, the agency has a number of enforcement tools available to address these operations, including a verbal warning, a warning letter, and an order to stop the operation.”

I have heard through the grapevine that FAA has at least one full time employee scouring YouTube videos looking for commercial use of drones.  I understand they also have employees looking on YouTube for “dridiots” (drone flyers who are idiots).  A Dridiot can usually be spotted through a YouTube video that shows a shaky flight up over an airport runway, followed by a jerky flight over a national monument, with a closing shot from the inside of the Pentagon or some other highly restricted place.  The Dridiot usually titles his (almost all Dridiots are male) video something like “Stunning aerial footage of the White House”, and he usually turns the drone back towards himself for part of the video and says something like:

“Yeah, I just got this drone out of the box, and didn’t understand the directions, particular that junk about compass companion, or compass fixing, or calibration, or something, so I just flew it and look at the cool footage!  I just fired this sucker up, pulled back on the left toggle, and pretty soon I was up 1,500 feet, over the Statue of Liberty.  Look at all the park police down there, I think they are waving at me!  Here, let me pull the toggle sideways.  Look, I can see planes from JFK airport coming right by me!  Cool!  Then I went to Washington D.C. and tried to see what the Obamas were having for dinner.  Look, my drone is only 10’ from their window.  Aren’t I cool?  Then I went to Dulles Airport and flew in front of a Korean Airlines A-380 as it was taking off.  Look at the middle-finger sign the pilots gave me, must mean “cool flying” in Korean or something like that.  Must be an Asian thing because the China Airlines 747 pilots did the same thing when I buzzed their cockpit while they were  landing.  Yeah, I want to be a YouTube star and sell a million dollars in advertising.  What?  (background noise of pounding on the door)  Must be some of my fans (background noise “FBI, open the door”) Yeah, I guess the FBI wants to hire me to shoot some videos or something . . . (angry voices shouting ”down on the ground Dridiot”, sound of handcuffs clicking . . .)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


The Defense policy reimburses litigation expenses to defend against charges of intellectual property infringement including the costs to assert patent invalidity as a defense, the cost of re-examination proceedings as a defense and past damages and/or settlement costs.

IP Covered under the Defense Policy:
US and worldwide coverage available. Includes making, using, selling, offering for sale, importing in commerce any product process or method of doing business

Advantages of holding the IP Defense Policy:
·        Prevents abandoning market share by timely and forceful defense of infringement charges
·        Prevents unexpected cash drain on operations
·        Provides litigation funds to optimize a favorable outcome
·        Deters frivolous suits by demonstrating the ability to be financially protected
·        Reduces the pressure to settle infringement cases because of mounting legal expenses
·        Makes a company more attractive to investors

·        The premium will be approximately 2% of the limit purchased. For example, the premium for a $1,000,000 coverage limit at 2% would be $20,000 per year.
·        The cost will vary according to product and industry.

This material is for informational and promotional purposes only, and in no way changes the terms or effect of the policy language. Consult a copy of the Specimen Policy itself for all terms, conditions and exclusions.
For additional information please contact:              
    Alex Fjelstad
Senior Vice President
Twin City Group
4500 Park Glen Road
Minneapolis, MN 55416
                                                               952-924-6910 or

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


The Abatement policy reimburses litigation expenses to enforce intellectual property rights against infringers as well as countersuits or post-grant reviews for invalidity. In the event the insured loses the IP lawsuit the Abatement policy responds as a pure insurance policy. In the event the insured wins the IP lawsuit and has recognized an “Economic Benefit” the insured reimburses only the money paid out by the insurer and retains any additional recoveries. Repayment of the “Economic Benefit” reinstates policy limits and those funds are then available to pursue other infringers. IP covered under the Abatement Policy includes patents, trademarks, copyright and trade dress.

Advantages of holding the abatement policy:
·        Prevents loss of market share by timely and forceful response to infringement
·        Prevents unexpected cash drain on operations
·        Provides litigation funds to optimize a favorable decision for the IP holder
·        Reduces pressures to settle because of mounting legal expenses
·        Attracts investors who may be asked to fund the business
·        Strengthens the "licensbility" of the IP

·        The premium will be about 1 to 2% of the limit purchased. For example, the premium for a $1,000,000 coverage limit at 1% would be $10,000 per year
·        The actual cost will vary according to the type and number of IP covered

This material is for informational and promotional purposes only, and in no way changes the terms or effect of the policy language. Consult a copy of the Specimen Policy itself for all terms, conditions and exclusions. For additional information please contact:   

                                  Alex Fjelstad
                                                            Senior Vice President
                                                            Twin City Group
                                                            4500 Park Glen Road
                                                            Minneapolis, MN 55416
                                                            952-924-6910 or

Friday, September 19, 2014

TO DRONE OR NOT TO DRONE? That is the Question...

Part 1:  Can I fly one?  Well, it depends on who you are.  If you are a government, lifeguard service, electrical company, the coast guard, etc., you need a Certificate of Authorization from the FAA.  If you are a non-commercial user, such as someone who flies for fun and not profit, you need to follow FAA’s “Special Rule” for model aircraft.  So who is left?  Well, it is the “commercial” user (the ranks of which are rapidly shrinking of late, with lots of clearly commercial users who would post their prices and services now just discussing how “consulting” with them might benefit a user, or how the “solution” they come up with could help an advertising campaign).  Under the latest FAA discussions, it appears that if you want to fly commercially you need not only the Certificate of Authorization that the governmental entities need, but also a “Certificate of Airworthiness” and a Special Exemption (sounds a lot like a “permit” to me).

So, the government folks have it relatively easy, the hobbyist/recreational drone flyer needs only to abide by the “special rules” (more on this later), but the commercial operator has relatively turbulent skies ahead.  The first thing that comes to mind with FAA regulations is whether FAA even has the power to regulate drones, much less commercial uses of drones.  On one side, there is “Trappy” and his lawyer, who claim FAA lacks jurisdiction to assess fines on drone operators.  On the other side, the FAA makes is pretty clear on their website where they think their jurisdiction lies.   

(Eric Hanscom regularly flies his drone, below 400 feet, and for purely hobbyist purposes, and tries not to be a dridiot)