June 6th, 2016
I am confused about the rules and regulations about flying a drone for aerial photography. If a person is a license commercial pilot can they fly a drone for commercial/real estate photography purposes? Or are they required to be certified by the FAA? Real Estate agents in this area are very leery of using a non-certified drone pilot to take videos/photos of their property listings via a drone. Any helpful information on this is appreciated as we want to make sure that if we offer aerial photography via a drone that we are doing it legally.
Don’t feel bad about being confused about US drone regulations, most people are. My source for keeping up with Federal drone regulations is Peter Sachs (a Lawyer and an avid Drone enthusiast) over at Drone Law Journal. Nowadays there are both Federal drone regulations and State laws that pertain to using drones. States have gotten into the act because state legislatures are, with good reason, impatient with the lack of progress that the FAA is making. Many or all these State regulations may not be enforceable (Peter says: by federal statute, “[t]he United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States” (49 U.S. Code § 40103(a)(1))). Everyone is on their own for finding out what your state regulations are (most states have some unique regs) but Peter’s site is a great resource for the federal regulations.
Here is a summary of what Peter’s site says about federal drone regulations:
- Currently to fly a commercial drone (as in real estate photography) with the FAA’s blessing you need to have a 333 exemption (which requires a pilot’s license). But there is a 6-month backlog and 4000+ applications waiting to be processed.
- The FAA is working on coming up with a much simpler authorization to fly commercially called a Part 107. Part 107 will not require a pilot’s license. The FAA has promised this new Part 107 process for “late spring” of this year (as of this writing they have 15 days left) but the FAA has missed most of it’s passed drone promises.
- Peter also says. “…despite its claim of illegality, the FAA has never attempted to enforce against anyone solely for operating a drone commercially without a 333. Jason Koebler of Motherboard FOIA’ed all of the FAA’s enforcement actions, and they reveal the agency has never initiated a single enforcement action based solely upon commercial operation. Instead, each was based on an alleged violation of some existing FAR, mostly FAR 91.13 (careless/reckless operation). Why isn’t the FAA enforcing against something it claims is illegal? They know there is no legal basis for that claim, and that they will lose”.
Peter is recommending that you wait for the Part 107 process to be complete if you haven’t already applied for a 333 exemption because the chances are it will be faster.
There, now are you still confused?