Do You Really Need to Hire An FAA Licensed Drone Operator?

If you want aerial video or still photography and are flying for strictly recreational purposes, you don’t have to hire an FAA Licensed Drone Operator.

The main reason and perhaps most important reason to hire a licensed operator is to limit risk. If you operate a drone for non-recreational purposes or hire someone to operate a drone for you, there is significant liability potential.

First, let’s consider the recreational scenario. If you are flying a drone for recreational purposes, the FAA does not require a license when you are operating the drone indoors. However, if you fly your drone outdoors and it weighs more than .55 pounds you do need to register it with the FAA. But you do not need to have a remote pilot license if:

  1. Your are flying the drone purely as a hobby and solely for recreational purposes.
  2. You follow the guidelines set forth by your local community
  3. You keep your drone within a visual line-of-sight.
  4. Yield to any and all aircraft.
  5. Remain at least five miles away from airports and air traffic control towers.
  6. Your drone weighs less than 55 pounds.

Which brings us to the question of what is considered commercial use of UAS?

Any commercial use in connection or “furtherance” of a business, including but not limited to:

  1. Selling photos or videos taken from a UAS
  2. Using UAS to provide contract services, such as industrial equipment or factory inspection
  3. Using UAS to provide professional services, such as security or telecommunications
  4. Using UAS to monitor the progress of work your company is performing

What are some examples of commercial uses of UAS?

  1. Professional real estate or wedding photography
  2. Professional cinema photography for a film or television production
  3. Providing contract services for mapping or land surveys
  4. Crop inspection
  5. Photos of an event for social media promotions

Whether you are using a drone for strictly recreational purposes are commercial, there is a risk. Fines for using non-licensed drone pilots can get as high as $27,000 in civil courts and as much as $250,000 in criminal proceedings. So if you need aerial video or photography and cannot afford to pay a fine, it just makes sense to hire a licensed drone pilot. Not only does a licensed pilot know how to comply with the regulations, but most are also insured. Hiring a certified remote pilot to perform the flight is not only a good legal decision it’s just a good financial decision for many reasons. In the end, you will most likely be happy, and your wallet will be to.