FAA releases commercial drone rules, they’re totally OK with your drone photography business

Jun 23, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

FAA releases commercial drone rules, they’re totally OK with your drone photography business

Jun 23, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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After long drawn out speculation and worry, the FAA have finally confirmed and released the regulations regarding commercial drone use. The short version is that they’re fine with it and being able to do it is relatively easy, as long as you’re over 16 years old.

Posted to the FAA website, the new “107 to Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations” sets the terms for civilian operation of small UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) devices.

The rules, which apply to all drones under 55lbs being flown for “non-hobbyist purposes”, lay out what you can and can’t do in pretty certain terms.

The rules in brief

  • You need to be over 16 years old (sorry kids)
  • Unmanned aircraft must weight less than 55lbs (25kg)
  • The aircraft must remain within visual line of sight of the operator
  • You may not operate the craft overhead of anybody not directly involved with the flight
  • You can only using it during daylight (or during “civil twilight” if it has anti-collision lights)
  • Maximum ground speed of 100mph
  • Maximum altitude of 400ft, or if you’re flying from a structure, it must remain within 400ft of that structure
  • An individual cannot act as a remote pilot for multiple aircraft simultaneously
  • No careless or reckless operations

There’s a few other rules, too, which you can read in the complete document, but nothing seems particularly outlandish. Many of them are common sense rules that most existing drone operators tend to stick to, anyway.

Generally speaking, the rules are designed to minimise the risk to other aircraft as well as people and property on the ground. It is possible to have the FAA waive some of the conditions for specific instances, if the operator can demonstrate that the proposed flight can be conducted safely.

The last one in the list above is a little open to interpretation. “No careless or reckless operations”. What’s “careless or reckless” to one person, is just a “calculated risk” to another, and one could argue that simply taking a drone off the ground in the first place falls under that category.

Hopefully, the only time we’ll get to see this tested is in the event that something bad happens, and it isn’t abused in order to just shut down drone owners before they even get off the ground.

To become certified to fly a drone commercially, as mentioned above, you need to be over 16 years old. You will also need to hold a ‘remote pilot certificate‘ and go through a TSA security background check.

One thing the new rules don’t deal with is privacy. According to a press release issued by the FAA on Tuesday…

Although the new rule does not specifically deal with privacy issues in the use of drones, and the FAA does not regulate how UAS gather data on people or property, the FAA is acting to address privacy considerations in this area. The FAA strongly encourages all UAS pilots to check local and state laws before gathering information through remote sensing technology or photography.

As part of a privacy education campaign, the agency will provide all drone users with recommended privacy guidelines as part of the UAS registration process and through the FAA’s B4UFly mobile app. The FAA also will educate all commercial drone pilots on privacy during their pilot certification process; and will issue new guidance to local and state governments on drone privacy issues.

The FAA’s effort builds on the privacy “best practices” (PDF) the National Telecommunications and Information Administration published last month as the result of a year-long outreach initiative with privacy advocates and industry.

It’s not surprising that they don’t really want to get too heavily involved in the privacy issues, as it’s not really part of their mandate and it can be an extremely complex and subjective area to get into.

So, good news, overall. It seems to be fairly well thought out, and easy enough to obtain for anybody serious about flying drones commercially. The rules and requirements should certainly help to stop less experienced or less scrupulous drone owners from making the situation worse.

Do you fly a drone as a hobbyist or commercially?  Had you planned to start?  Has this helped you decide to do it, or put you off?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

[via DPReview]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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23 responses to “FAA releases commercial drone rules, they’re totally OK with your drone photography business”

  1. Theuns Verwoerd Avatar
    Theuns Verwoerd

    “You may not operate the craft overhead of anybody not directly involved with the flight”

    That’s that for any flights over venues that you do not fully control, including drone-based trespass.

    1. Sean Avatar
      Sean

      Agree. So you can only fly over uninhabited areas? So….urban flights are no longer legal under that rule. Would also stop Amazon in its tracks for its planned Drone Delivery services. So… No flying over beaches, parks, city streets, events, fairs, etc. So we can only fly over the ocean (provided no boats in sight), forest (provided no hikers present) and the desert (provided no nomads..lol). That rule makes it unrealistic to even bother.

      1. Graeme Simpson Avatar
        Graeme Simpson

        just shout out loud you’re flying a drone, then they become aware and thus part of your flight so enabling “You may not operate the craft overhead of anybody not directly involved with the flight”

        1. Sean Avatar
          Sean

          Don’t think that would be defined as “directly involved”.

    2. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      You must’ve missed the bit about waivers being available for those who can demonstrate they can do it safely. :)

    3. TByte Avatar
      TByte

      Good.

    4. Theuns Verwoerd Avatar
      Theuns Verwoerd

      At which point we’re back on drones requiring specific permits, which was the point of this change.

  2. Sean Avatar
    Sean

    The title should be “FAA RELEASES COMMERCIAL DRONE RULES, THEY’RE TOTALLY OK WITH YOUR DRONE PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS….AS LONG AS YOU DON’T PLAN ON FILMING ANYTHING WORTH FILMING.”

    1. Rick Avatar
      Rick

      Go ahead and keep thinking like that as those with a little vision pass you by.

      1. Sean Avatar
        Sean

        Go ahead and keep being a douche….as I pass you by.

  3. TByte Avatar
    TByte

    Drones need to be registered, and they need to have recognizable registration codes on them visible from the ground so that violators can be reported.

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      You’d need bloody good eye sight to read writing on a drone a few hundred feet in the air.

      1. TByte Avatar
        TByte

        Not when I’m out with my 500mm lens, which is when I most frequently see these irresponsible drone pilots.

        1. Kaouthia Avatar
          Kaouthia

          Define “irresponsible”. What exactly are they doing?

          With a field of view of only 4.1°, it’s hardly likely they’re interfering with your shot. :)

          1. TByte Avatar
            TByte

            “Irresponsible”, as in flying directly over my head.
            And I was on a photo outing with a group of photographers doing timelapses from a bridge, in a city, just last month when some jackass with a drone flew it directly over us and hovered in front of our cameras. He was with another photo group on a different bridge. Fucked up all of our timelapses.
            Get a clue……

          2. Kaouthia Avatar
            Kaouthia

            3ft directly over your head, or 300ft directly over your head?

            Have you considered, you know, maybe, being nice, talking to them and asking “hey, mind taking it somewhere else?”

            Perhaps you and your buddies were in their shot, and they considered you to be just as “irresponsible”?

          3. TByte Avatar
            TByte

            I’d say it was between 10 and 20 feet over our heads.

            As I pointed out, they were on a bridge several hundred yards behind us. And should I have to point out that someone buzzing other people and interfering with their photography is rude?
            I should hope not. It should simply be illegal, and if they’d had registration numbers on their drone we could have photographed their violation, made a complaint, and they could have been identified and fined.
            Which was my whole point.
            “Get it”????
            Probably not. Fuck off, asshole.

          4. Kaouthia Avatar
            Kaouthia

            No, I get it. Your eloquent explanation tells me exactly why people have a habit of winding you up. They’re probably doing it on purpose, knowing the kind of reaction it’ll get. :)

          5. TByte Avatar
            TByte

            Ah, so you have been intentionally acting like an asshole.
            I get it now….
            Is this a hobby of yours? My hobbies are photography and chess.

          6. Kaouthia Avatar
            Kaouthia

            Oh boy. Thank god Discus finally gave us a block button.

            Goodbye!

          7. TByte Avatar
            TByte

            Its about time you found that.
            Thanks for making a fool of yourself. It was (mildly) entertaining.

  • Sean Avatar
    Sean

    Actually, the reg numbers are there in case it crashes. As Kaouthia said…hard enough to read the tail numbers off a plane in flight, no less a drone…lol.

    1. TByte Avatar
      TByte

      I’ve taken pictures of drones buzzing me with my 500mm lens.
      I’d easily be able to read decent-sized registration codes off of them.
      Plus, if the drone is so high that the numbers cannot be read, it would not be as dangerous as one buzzing just overhead.
      I’m saying the letters should be printed and visible on the drone, at lease 3 inches tall. Alternatively, a system of colored bands and symbols could be used as well, similar to what is done with banding birds.