Load up your Memory Sticks, Ready your Gimbals, Charge $$$ for Work!

Federal Judge rules commercial drones are legal

Update: March 7th, 2014 – The FAA will be filing an appeal. Read the info in their link to UAS Operations as well. They have valid points and I may have sounded the celebration alarm a bit too soon.

Commercial Use of Drones is Now LEGAL!

A federal judge has ruled today that commercial drones are legal in U.S. skies, citing that the Federal Aviation Administration has not made any legally enforceable rules against such operations. Great news for us photographers/cinematographers! We can now charge for work without fear.

To be perfectly clear, this ruling applies to the hobby RC type drones you see here on this website – NOT to full sized military drones. So calm down naysayers, no one will be flying over your house in a full sized turbine aircraft tomorrow morning. That said, they may well be flying over the house your neighbor put for sale to take photos for the real estate company handling the listing.

The ruling came out of the FAA’s case against Raphael Pirker (we know him as Trappy). The FAA attempted to fine Trappy $10,000 for the conduct of his flight operations during the filming of a commercial for the University of Virginia. The case has been going on for some time and Trappy was defended by our friend and fellow local flyer, Brendan Schulman. Mr. Schulman’s main argument was based on the fact that the FAA had no enforceable regulation or rule applying to model aircraft or in classifying model aircraft as Unmanned Aircraft (UAS) according to current FAA guidelines. The full decision text is here: FAA v. Raphael Pirker.

The FAA still has the opportunity to appeal the decision – and if it does, the case will go to the Washington D.C. U.S. Court of Appeals.

My take on what this means for those of us out there that want to make some money with our lightweight flying machines:

  1. Green light, GO! Get out there and utilize your investment – but do so with care and professionalism.
  2. There are still restrictions. Stay below 400′ Above Ground Level (AGL), stay clear of real aircraft, and the National Airspace System.
  3. Don’t piss people off or put people on the ground in danger. You copter can fall out of the sky at any time, make sure if it does there is no one nearby.
  4. Keep in mind that there are no laws restricting us right now. This is nice, this is the way we want it! If people go out there and do stupid things like our reporter flying at the active accident scene, the public will scream for regulation. If someone really crashes into a person or crowd. The public will ask the government – how are you going to keep me safe from these fools? We’ll be slammed with rules immediately.
  5. Educate your fellow flyers. Many don’t know the finer details of where controlled airspace starts and ends, many don’t know that they can’t rely on their copter’s GPS or failsafe functionality. Let them know kindly and try to foster a responsible (but always fun!) flying environment.
  6. My preaching is over! See you out there in the field – filming, flying, fpv’ing, or whatever it is you do!