Q: What is a Drone?
A: Drone is a nickname given to any aircraft in the category of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), or Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) weighing less than 55 lbs. (The name is also used to describe unmanned military aircraft.) Almost all consumer drones are capable of carrying a payload (usually a camera) which captures images and/or video. Nearly all models offer the ability to “live stream” the media from the camera to the operator on the ground in real time, as well as to social media sites. The cost to operate the UAS units is much less than an airplane or helicopter and therefore we can offer commercial images and video at a lower cost. It also saves on resources such as fuel and aircraft maintenance and even reduces emissions since UAS devices run off batteries.
Q: Is it illegal to operate drones commercially?
A: It is only illegal to operate commercially if you do not have the proper licensing. All of our UAS operators are licensed pilots and have an FAA Part 107 UAS Airman Certificate and/or Section 333 Exemption. On August 29, 2016, new FAA regulations (part 107) went into effect. Please refer to the chart at the bottom of this page for more information. Anyone operating drones commercially is required to have the proper certifications and regulatory requirements in place.
Q: What is considered commercial drone operation?
A: The FAA considers anything tied to income as commercial operation. This includes a roofer using shots of a roof on their website or a realtor using drone footage for a listing. Even if the roofer or the realtor are not directly getting paid for the flight, the ultimate purpose is to earn income by winning new roofing clients or the sale of a real estate listing. Basically if you are flying for any purpose other than hobby or recreation, it is commercial use and you need a license and are expected to comply with commercial regulations.
Q: How high can you fly?
A: The FAA guidelines state that UAS devices can fly no higher than 400 feet AGL (Above Ground Level) without a Certificate of Waiver from the FAA. Most of the time we don’t need to get above 200 feet to capture the subject so this is usually not an issue. An example of a valid reason to petition for permission to exceed the standard 400′ height restriction would be for wind turbine inspection since some of them are close to 400′ tall with the blades. This rule is in effect to protect manned aircraft, who have a general “floor” of 500 feet in most locations. *Please note this manned aircraft rule does not apply near airports.* Manned aircraft may be flying at much lower altitudes when coming in for a landing. And helicopters may fly at any altitude depending on the circumstances (Rescue choppers may land almost anywhere) so the key to safety is to remain vigilant, listen for manned aircraft, and follow the rules.
Q: Can you fly at night?
A: No, but it can be approved under part 107 with a valid reason. Night flying presents a number of dangers. The regulations state that drones can only fly between sunrise and sunset unless an exemption is granted from this rule by the FAA.
Q: Can you fly drones near airports?
A: Not advisable and new legislation is being enforced as of July 2018
Q: How long can you fly?
A: Our Drones can operate for 12-25 minutes on a single battery depending on the aircraft we use, the wind speed, air temperature, aircraft load, and other conditions. Each of our units have multiple batteries in order to extend flight time with additional 12-25 minute flights. We also have the ability to charge batteries on location so we can fly uninterrupted for an entire day if needed.
Q: Can you fly over crowds of people?
A: The FAA guidelines state that you cannot fly an unmanned aircraft over anyone not involved in the flight operation (i.e. the remote pilot and visual observer). This includes flying at stadiums, sporting events, wildfires, or over crowds of people, including first responders at the scene of an incident. Some of these restrictions can be exempted on a per-flight basis but requires a valid reason.
Q: Can you fly indoors?
A: Yes and no. While the FAA frowns upon it, it is not legally restricted and is in fact technically possible with the obstacle avoidance technology now present in the latest drones. We do not recommend it in most cases, as it can be dangerous both to people and property. Drones can only be flown in manual mode indoors (no GPS) which can be unpredictable, even with experienced pilots and ideal conditions. Since the FAA prohibits flying near people that is also a limiting factor. We have other options for interior video including a custom rolling camera dolly, handheld gimbals, and fluid head tripods.
Requirements for operating in the National Airspace (NAS)Part 107 Regulations and how they apply to operators.
You must have a certified aircraft
Drone (UAS) operators must maintain a UAS in condition for safe operation in the NAS and must inspect before each flight.
You must have a registered Aircraft
You must register your UAS with the FAA to be in compliance. This applies to both commercial operators and hobbyists.
You must be a licensed pilot.
You must hold a Certificate after passing an aeronautical knowledge test and TSA background check.
You must have operational approval.
You must operate according to the Part 107 regulations for UAS operators (max airspeed, max altitude, airspace restrictions, etc.) and you must know when approval from FAA/ATC is necessary.