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Breaking The Law

Friday, September 23, 2016 10:35

The FAA considers the person who operates a drone (aka remote controlled aircraft or unmanned aircraft system (UAS)) as a "pilot in command." Title 14 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), section 61.101(e) "Recreational Pilot Privileges" states in part: "a recreational pilot may not act as pilot in command of an aircraft— for compensation or hire, nor in furtherance of a business." The FAA categorizes aircraft usage into two categories: Hobby or Recreation Use, and Not Hobby or Recreation Use (furtherance of a business). Here are some examples:

  • Hobby or Recreation:
    • Flying a model aircraft at the local model aircraft club.
    • Taking photographs with a model aircraft for personal use.
    • Using a model aircraft to move a box from point to point without any kind of compensation. (If an individual offers free shipping in association with a purchase or other offer, FAA would construe the shipping to be in furtherance of a business purpose, and thus, the operation would not fall within the statutory requirement of recreation or hobby purpose.)
    • Viewing a field to determine whether crops need water when they are grown for personal enjoyment
  • Not Hobby or Recreation (i.e. in the furtherance of a business):
    • A realtor using a model aircraft to photograph a property that he is trying to sell and using the photos in the property’s real estate listing.
    • A person photographing a property or event and selling the photos to someone else.
    • Delivering packages to people for a fee.
    • Determining whether crops need to be watered that are grown as part of commercial farming operation.
    • Receiving money for demonstrating aerobatics with a model aircraft.

As of August 29, 2016, the requirement of needing FAA approval (often referred to as a "Section 333 Exemption") to legally fly drones in the furtherance of a business, was replaced by Title 14 CFR Part 107. It introduces a new aircraft pilot's license called a "Remote Pilot Certificate with a small UAS rating." A drone operator must be granted such a certificate to be in legal compliance with Federal law. See Insight posting: "New Remote Pilot Airman Certificate" to learn more about the testing involved with acquiring the certificate.

Check out FAA Docket No.: FAA-2014-0396, "Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft" for more detail about non-hobby/recreational use of drones. It provides references to supporting federal codes and court cases. Contact Sierra Pro Aerial Imaging to hire an FAA-licensed drone pilot for your aerial photography, video, inspection, or surveying needs.