Gentle sUAS News reader. You are here because you are plainly able to sort the wheat from the chaff. Recent claims have warranted a look and boy we have unearthed a couple of weeks worth of stories. If you are considering using a lawyer to help you with a 333 exemption read on. If you are looking for drone pilot training stay tuned.
When a company gets more than 1000 drone types listed for FAA approval it makes you stand up and take note. Especially when you have never heard of that company or seen its executives active in the unmanned world. Then I start seeing recommendations for that company from satisfied customers on Facebook and think, crikey that’s quick.
I started asking around (Google and others) and found out it is run by an ex-federal convict.
Time I think for the FAA to slow down and check the folks taking hard earned cash from excited newcomers to take them through the 333 process.
Gowdy Brothers, LLC
There used to be a group of brothers, but now there is only Stephen C. Gowdy. http://www.firstflightaerospace.com/
Gowdry say they will sort out your, COA’s, exemptions, registration, consulting, etc. They also say:-
“We are not lawyers – we are licensed pilots,”
When I searched the FAA’s airmen’s database, I could only confirm one of them is a pilot who has only a private pilot certificate. Where are the other pilots? Where is the aviation experience?
On top of this, they claim they are not lawyers which causes more problems since Minnesota State Statute 481.02 says, “It shall be unlawful for any person or association of persons, . . . . . . to prepare legal documents, or as being engaged in advising or counseling in law or acting as attorney or counselor at law, or in furnishing to others the services of a lawyer or lawyers, or, for a fee or any consideration, to give legal advice or counsel” which seems to call into question all the exemption work they are doing.
Just read http://www.gowdybrothers.com/exemption/ and ask how does preparing and filing paperwork that affects the legal rights of their clients not violate Minnesota State law?
To make things more interesting, Stephen C Gowdy pleaded guilty to fraud surrounding a loan from the federal government for over $1 million. http://www.swnewsmedia.com/eden_prairie_news/news/owner-of-ep-business-pleads-guilty-to-fraud/article_2d0e175c-da98-5a0e-b779-1cab8d5c96bf.html
We know it is him because the Minnesota Secretary of State lists “Stephen C Gowdy” as the registered agent for Gowdy Brothers Aerospace LLC. (https://mblsportal.sos.state.mn.us/Business/SearchDetails?filingGuid=d806ad80-fee1-e411-b14d-001ec94ffe7f) An old LinkedIn profile lists Stonebridge Wireless and Grace Bible College (https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephen-gowdy-a45a4b3) but his new LinkedIn profile lists only Grace Bible College without Stonebridge Wireless (https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephengowdy).
If you search the Federal Bureau of Prisons you’ll find his name and that he was released from federal prison in 2009. https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/
Another twist is that he is offering drone companies with exemptions already approved! http://www.gowdybrothers.com/drone-businesses-for-sale/ , the problem is that they might not be legal.
It appears he has been petitioning for exemptions for companies that DO NOT EXIST. I guess he gets the money from you and then sets up the company?
Go to the Minnesota Secretary of State business search and type in the name of the business on the exemption. https://mblsportal.sos.state.mn.us/Business/Search
You’ll notice that these pending exemptions are for companies that DO NOT EXIST!
Another worrying bit of advice, not from lawyers though, because they told us they were not is contained in an email that floated into my inbox.
The Serious News: The FAA is not playing nice with operators who do not have a Section 333 exemption! They are looking into any UAV Operators who have been brought to their attention through the complaint system. Additionally, the FAA continues to take a very dim view on operators that display videos and pictures on their website or social media that appear to have encroached in Class B Airspace or violated other regulations.
Subpoenas are being issued to operators to provide all photos, videos, invoices, records of payments, proposals, contracts, agreements, time and locations of each photo and video, social websites, types makes and models of UAV’s used.
Because of the seriousness of this action by the FAA, Gowdy Brothers Aerospace recommends that all Gowdy Brothers customers and sUAV Operators immediately remove all videos, photos, and any social mediawhere you or your company website is demonstrating any potential Class B infractions and all commercial operational videos of photos of sUAV activates, even if money does not exchange hands.
The FAA considers an ‘economic benefit’ a ‘commercial flight’. Once you have your Section 333 Exemption grant in-hand, you may place all commercial aerial videos and photos taken after the date of the exemption grant on your website and social media accounts.
The FAA will still pursue infractions against operators prior to the date of the Exemption grant, even when the company holds a Section 333 Exemption! Our emphatic suggestion: do what needs to be done to reduce any potential liability to your sUAV business’ success. Side note: Gowdy Brothers Aerospace believes that informed clients will make the best decisions. We do not use – or want to be perceived as using – any sales tactics to scare clients into a Section 333 Exemption. However, we have seen multiple operators become the target of large-scale FAA investigations, even as recently as yesterday.
Consequently, we feel these FAA actions should be taken very seriously and these continued enforcement actions by the FAA are something all operators, business owners and UAS stakeholders should be cognizant of while participating in the National Airspace System (NAS). Remove Incriminating Pictures or Videos!
Again, please, for your own liability reduction, remove all aerial videos and photos from your website or social media accounts used for commercial purposes or near Class B airspace. Better safe than sorry. Gowdy Brothers wants to be a help to your business success, any questions or comment please send us note at [email protected]
Happy (safe and legal) flying! Make it a great day! Andrew Brandt Client Traffic Controller [email protected] Gowdy Brothers Aerospace, LLC
That’s telling you to remove anything dodgy. Now in Minnesota there is this:-
2015 Minnesota Statutes
Subdivision 1.Definition of crime.
(a) Whoever harbors, conceals, aids, or assists by word or acts another whom the actor knows or has reason to know has committed a crime under the laws of this or another state or of the United States with intent that such offender shall avoid or escape from arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment, may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than three years or to payment of a fine of not more than $5,000, or both if the crime committed or attempted by the other person is a felony.
(b) Whoever knowingly harbors, conceals, or aids a person who is on probation, parole, or supervised release because of a felony level conviction and for whom an arrest and detention order has been issued, with intent that the person evade or escape being taken into custody under the order, may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than three years or to payment of a fine of not more than $5,000, or both. As used in this paragraph, “arrest and detention order” means a written order to take and detain a probationer, parolee, or supervised releasee that is issued under section 243.05, subdivision 1; 244.19, subdivision 4; or 401.02, subdivision 4.
[Repealed, 1996 c 408 art 3 s 40]
Subd. 3.Obstructing investigation.
Whoever intentionally aids another person whom the actor knows or has reason to know has committed a criminal act, by destroying or concealing evidence of that crime, providing false or misleading information about that crime, receiving the proceeds of that crime, or otherwise obstructing the investigation or prosecution of that crime is an accomplice after the fact and may be sentenced to not more than one-half of the statutory maximum sentence of imprisonment or to payment of a fine of not more than one-half of the maximum fine that could be imposed on the principal offender for the crime of violence. For purposes of this subdivision, “criminal act” means an act that is a crime listed in section 609.11, subdivision 9, under the laws of this or another state, or of the United States, and also includes an act that would be a criminal act if committed by an adult.
Subd. 4.Taking responsibility for criminal acts.
(a) Unless the person is convicted of the underlying crime, a person who assumes responsibility for a criminal act with the intent to obstruct, impede, or prevent a criminal investigation may be sentenced to not more than one-half of the statutory maximum sentence of imprisonment or to payment of a fine of not more than one-half of the maximum fine that could be imposed on the principal offender for the criminal act.
(b) Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to impair the right of any individual or group to engage in speech protected by the United States Constitution or the Minnesota Constitution.
An offense committed under subdivision 1 or 3 may be prosecuted in:
(1) the county where the aiding or obstructing behavior occurred; or
(2) the county where the underlying criminal act occurred.
So Gowdry Brothers appears to be built on sand.
As all good TV ads say… but wait there’s more…. Tomorrow if I dare we shall speak of more faux experts just waiting to take your cash.