Aviation Policy Leader Justin Towles Joins Akin Gump

(Washington, D.C.) – Akin Gump today announced that Justin Towles, a recognized leader in advanced aviation policy, has joined its communications and information technology practice as a senior policy advisor in Washington, D.C. He comes to the firm from Ascension Global, a management consulting firm he cofounded that advises clients in advanced aviation issues, including unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) matters.

Mr. Towles has nearly 20 years of experience in legislative advocacy, regulation, coalition building, partnership development and industry engagement around advanced aviation policy at the federal, state and local levels. At Akin Gump, he will advise clients on the full array of UAS and urban air mobility (UAM) issues, including counter-UAS policy, public safety and community engagement.

The addition of Mr. Towles represents the second recent notable hire for Akin Gump in the unmanned systems space: Clifford Sweatte, a recognized leader in the global aviation and UAS industry, joined the firm in July. Mr. Sweatte formerly served as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) program manager during the first approvals for beyond-visual-line-of-sight operations. (Read more here.)

“Justin is another great addition to our capabilities in the UAS and broader aviation technologies space,” said Hal S. Shapiro, chair of the firm’s regulatory practice steering committee. “Combined with Cliff’s recent arrival and Jennifer Richter’s well-established leadership in these areas, we are able to bring exceptional skills and experience to clients related to the unmanned aviation sector.”

During his tenure with Ascension Global, Mr. Towles provided strategic guidance, market analysis, state-of-the-art assessments and other senior-level support to federal agencies and major equipment manufacturers in the area of advanced aviation technology. Prior to that, Mr. Towles served as vice president, Legislative & Regulatory Affairs, for the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), where he represented the interests of airports and over 5,000 AAAE members before the FAA, Congress and the administration.

“Akin Gump has an established track record as a leading firm in the UAS space, and I am thrilled to join this team,” stated Mr. Towles. “This is an exciting time for stakeholders in the aviation industry, with new opportunities and challenges arising at a breathtaking pace. Akin Gump’s platform will be ideal for me as I continue to help clients navigate this dynamic environment.”

Throughout his career, Mr. Towles has been involved with numerous boards, organizations and committees in the UAS and aviation technologies spaces, including as a representative for key stakeholders on four UAS-related aviation rulemaking committees, as a member of the Federal Drone Advisory Committee’s Subcommittee, and as a member of the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Safety Team and of several UAS industry working groups. He has also organized and managed more than 20 successful aviation industry conferences and summits to promote thought leadership and best practice implementation and launched a UAS security and enforcement training program for airport operators.

Mr. Towles also served as the founder and co-chair of the 26 Coalition for UAS Safety, a coalition of organizations in the aviation community committed to ensuring that safety remains the primary focus when advancing UAS integration policy. 

Prior to his tenure with AAAE, Mr. Towles served as an aide in the offices of two U.S. representatives and in multiple positions in the administration of Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Mr. Towles received his B.S. in pre-law, concentration in business, from Stevenson University.

About Akin Gump’s UAS Capabilities

Akin Gump’s capabilities in the UAS space are growing to meet the demands of a robust list of domestic and international clients who remain active on evolving aviation- and transportation-related laws governing UAS. The hallmark of the firm’s cross-disciplinary team is its ability to approach new hurdles in this uncharted space innovatively, utilizing the legal, policy and regulatory capabilities from offices and practices around the firm, including intellectual property, cybersecurity and international trade.

Akin Gump’s UAS team is part of an integrated policy and regulatory team comprising the largest government affairs group in Washington D.C. and more than 100 regulatory lawyers and advisors focused on telecommunications, cybersecurity, health care, environmental, international trade, transportation, antitrust, labor and other areas of law.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP is a leading international law firm with more than 900 lawyers in offices throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

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