All commercial UAV operators have asked themselves this Section 333 preparation question: should I hire a Section 333 attorney or Section 333 preparation company to prepare my petition? It’s tempting to answer that question with another question by saying, “the Section 333 preparation company is cheaper…why would I spend more money for a Section 333 attorney to do the same thing?” It is true that many of the Section 333 preparation companies you see advertising on Google have undercut the market and are preparing petitions anywhere from $300 – $800. However, is making your company “legal” really the place you want to cut costs – especially in a field as legally volatile as UAV operation. This article will walk you through some of the pros and cons of Section 333 preparation companies and help you decide for yourself whether it is in your company’s best interest to hire a Section 333 attorney or not.
The first thing to think about is that the Section 333 process is all about preparing a petition – it’s essentially legal writing. While some preparation companies may have vast UAV and aviation technical knowledge, they generally aren’t trained in petition writing – especially petition writing that requires the appropriate legalese to allow growth within a client’s UAV business. Nonetheless, the preparation companies will claim that they have a GUARANTEED template and all they have to do is plug your company’s name into the document and you will receive your exemption…just like all their previous, successful clients. While that may be true, this strategy is not going to maximize the value of the business. In other words, let’s say you are starting a UAV business for real estate photography called “Real Estate UAV, LLC.” Are the preparation companies going to sit down with you and discuss how to broaden your Section 333 petition so as to maximize your business? No. It’s likely that they are going to plug your name into their template and spit back a cookie cutter petition with “Real Estate UAV, LLC” at the top and purpose at the bottom with: “real estate photography.”This will not maximize your potential growth. Instead, the drafter of your petition should sit down with you and discuss where your business may be 10 years down the road and whether you are legally capable of operating the type of business in your business plan, etc. After gathering this information and counseling you, the petition drafter should make your petition as broad as possible to allow for future growth. Maybe the attorney’s petition would read “Real Estate UAV, LLC” at the top and purpose at the bottom of the page with: “aerial photography; aerial videography; aerial surveying.” The problem with using a Section 333 preparation company is that they are not legally authorized to give you legal advice. This would be the unlicensed practice of law (“UPL”). As a result, essentially, all a preparation company is really allowed to do is put your name down into their template and send it off to the FAA for review…even that is legally a grey area and we feel is a pseudo unlicensed practice of law.
Be that as it may, because he or she is legally authorized to counsel you on aspects of the law, your Section 333 attorney can offer you so much more for a greater value than a Section 333 preparation company. For example, a Section 333 attorney can legally provide analysis of your business model, corporate set-up and structure, plan for the broadest commercial use, prepare operations, maintenance and airworthiness directives with an eye for liability, provide legal advice and analysis on UAV use prior to and after receiving you Section 333 exemption, and fight any potential FAA Civil Penalties and/or FAA Enforcement Actions that may come your way. When you consider most attorneys charge, maybe, $300 more than the Section 333 preparation companies, you are getting a great value for your money.
Beyond all this, you can tell the difference between an attorney prepared and an organizer prepared Section 333 petition for yourself by visiting regulations.gov. If you go to this website and search for any given Section 333 preparer, you can judge the quality of his or her work for yourself. We invite you to look at the quality of The Ison Law Group’s Section 333 petitions at regulations.gov.
Of course this article may be one-sided, as it is coming to you from a Section 333 and aviation law firm. Nonetheless, we think the issues speak for themselves. Hiring an attorney for legal work only makes sense. If you want to commercially operate your drone with a Section 333 petition, contact your drone attorney at The Ison Law Firm. We are regularly counseling our Section 333 clients with an eye for legal operation and a broad business plan. If you have any questions, feel free to call us at 863-712-9472 or e-mail to Anthony@ThePilotLawyer.com.