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  • Writer's pictureTom Mann

Using Drones for Photos and Video?

So, here is what you need to know. Stay with me. It takes some explanation…

Drones or what the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) calls Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) are considered aircraft the same as an airplane or helicopter. Thus, they are regulated by the FAA for commercial use. For reference, we are talking about drones or sUAS that are governed by Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations.

What is commercial use? (non-hobbyist)

If you are in business and use a drone or you are being hired to provide sUAS services for any reason, that is commercial use. Real estate, roof inspections, land inspections, mapping, arial photography/videography are examples of commercial use. Even if it is not your primary source of income or you fly a drone for your business, you are a commercial sUAS operator.

What is a hobbyist?

A hobbyist is flying for personal use or for fun. Even it you are a hobbyist, you must know and follow the FAA’s rules and regulations for drones. You can’t fly for your business, someone else, a non-profit organization, government agency, or get payed in any way.

So, what’s the big deal about commercial use?

Let’s say you are a realtor. You need some arial pictures of a house or property. You need to hire a commercial drone pilot or you must become a commercial drone pilot. The Federal Aviation Administration regulates airspace across the United States. You or the person you hire must be an FAA certified drone pilot and their “drone” must be registered with the FAA. Unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds and more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) on takeoff and operated outdoors in the national airspace system must register with the FAA. The FAA certified drone pilot must understand and gain authorization to fly in controlled airspace. That is within 5 nautical miles of an airport or near a heliport, hospital, etc. Insurance would be good to have. There is risk of damage to property and injury or death when you fly a drone.

What you should expect from any professional commercial drone operator:

-FAR 107 sUAS Remote Pilot Certificate (license).

Your pilot must have passed a test and be able to produce FAA issued document or card to prove it. He or she will be proud to show you their license.

-Liability Insurance. Your pilot is not required but should have liability insurance to cover the cost of damage or injury. Otherwise, you may be liable.

-LAANC authorization or FAA airspace authorizations

A professional pilot knows that he/she needs to use the FAA’s LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization or have a written airspace authorization from the FAA. For instance, where I live, there is no LAANC system in place. I applied for and received two airspace authorizations to fly within Marion, Illinois and the Carbondale/Murphysboro, Illinois due to the controlled (Class D) airspace.

-Experience and Knowledge about Drone Safety. Your pilot should be able to educate you or advise you. If it is unsafe, illegal, or prohibited by the FAA, your pilot should tell you and refuse to work the mission.

-Professional Drone/Equipment. Be sure your hired pilot has a drone that has safety features such as obstacle avoidance. Drones with safety features are not your over-the-counter drones like the ones you find in a store for $100 at Christmas time.

Don’t let all of this information scare you. Hire me!

Since 2016, I have had an FAA Remote Pilots license to be a commercial pilot. I carry sUAS liability insurance. I have two FAA airspace authorizations to fly in my area and use the LAANC system. I have years of experience and I believe safety is a priority. My drones have the latest safety features and high quality optics for photo and video. I have the experience! .I successfully set up, supervised and managed an sUAS program with 8 FAA certified drone pilots for a local ABC affiliated television news station.

Call me for consultation, pricing and plan options. I can even advise you on becoming a pilot and how to do it the right way.

-Tom Mann

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