Do you know about Drone Rules & Regulations?
As a business owner I, like you, am ready to utilize the new capabilities provided by drone technology. We can take our images to a “new level” and the expense of aerial photography, in many ways, has become affordable. We can scale buildings, cover wide landscapes, observe large construction sites and capture the images with still photography or videos. How amazing is that? So it was only a matter of time until the government stepped in and put their boot down. And if I’m honest with you I’d have to say that I think some regulation is needed to protect everyone’s safety and privacy.
So we looked into the laws and this is the info we have found so far: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates the commercial use of drones (unmanned aircraft systems [UAS]) under Part 107 of the “Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule.” Construction companies in their nature are for-profit. Therefore, the “commercial use” phrase applies here and we must pay close attention to these rules otherwise we may be subject to fines… and worse. To protect ourselves and our companies from potential controversy that would usurp the benefits of using an UAS, we have compiled the laws that we know of (Disclaimer: we are not a law firm so if you have a UAS go find the OFFICIAL rules and regulations for your state) into an easy-to-follow reference that may guide you as you embrace this new technology.
Let’s address some key terms that will help us navigate the basic operating rules for a pilot-in-command of a commercial UAS. These rules only apply to UAS owners who use their drones for profit. The FAA interprets “for profit” as anything that advances your business, so even taking pictures and videos and keeping them internally can be seen as profitable.
Terms to Know
Federal Aviation Administration: (FAA) a national organization that regulates civil aviation, aircrafts, pilots, enforces safety rules, and maintains air traffic control stations
Commercial use: for-profit use (interpreted broadly by the FAA)
Unmanned aircraft systems: (UAS) an aircraft with no human pilot
Small unmanned aircraft systems: (sUAS) a UAS that weighs between .55 lbs and 55 lbs
Pilot-in-command: (PIC) a person responsible for in-flight operation and safety
Visual line of sight: (VLOS) if a person can see an object
Visual observer: (VO) person watching the operation
Weather visibility: how far a person can see and identify an object in miles
Control station: where the PIC is operating the controls
Civil twilight: 30 mins before sunrise, 30 mins after sunset according to local time
Air traffic control: people that monitor and control air traffic in a certain area
First Person View: PIC watches the flight through goggles via an onboard camera on the UAS
- UAS must weigh less than 55 lbs (including cargo)
- UAS must remain in the visual line of sight of pilot and the visual observer (if present)
- Yield to other aircrafts
- Max altitude = 400 feet
- Max groundspeed = 100 mph (80 knots)
- May not carry hazardous materials
- Transporting property for compensation may not occur in Hawaii, Washington, D.C., and some U.S. territories
- Minimum weather visibility = 3 miles from the control station
- Do not operate under a covered structure, inside a vehicle, or over anyone who is not willingly participating in the observation
- Operate only during daylight or civil twilight with anti-collision lighting
- Must have explicit permission from air traffic control to operate in Class B, C, D, and E airspaces*
- Do not need permission to use Class G airspace
- Do not operate if you know (or have reason to know) of physical or mental conditions that would hinder safe operation
- Must have a VO if the PIC is using First Person View
- PIC must conduct a preflight inspection
- PICs and VOs may not operate more than one sUAS at a time
- PICs must be certified (certification requirements listed below)
PIC Certification and Requirements
- Adhere to pre-existing registration requirements✹
- Must have a remote pilot airman certificate**(or be under the direct supervision of someone who has one)
- Pass an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved testing center***
- Register your sUAS with the FAA✖
- Check local and state laws before taking pictures or gathering data with your sUAS✜
- Any operation resulting in injury, loss of consciousness, or >$500 in damage must be reported within 10 days
Drones for the Future
Time-lapse photography, aerial views of large construction sites, and land surveying are just a few possible uses for UAS technology. All of this potential makes it hard to think of a downside to using drones. But, UAS operation does raise some important safety concerns that we must consider. For example, we must not fly the drones over congested areas such as highways or over groups of people. It is our duty as safe operators to protect unsuspecting bystanders from the risks of our drone operation. The National Telecommunication and Information Administration created a guide that can be used as a benchmark for appropriate uses✽.
Commercial liability coverage for UAS is essential for protecting yourself from the repercussions of an accident. Your UAS may be covered under your existing policy, but double check before operating your drone. For those of you who need to purchase UAS insurance I have included a link below that may help guide you through the process of choosing what insurance policy is right for you Φ.
Another resource you should become familiar with is a free FAA-created app called “B4UFLY.”★ The app shows you airspace restrictions all over the United States on interactive maps. One of the easiest ways for pilots to get fined is by not researching where they want to fly and realizing too late that there are restrictions in that area. Safeguard your operation by exploring the location on “B4UFLY” first.
From commercial users to hobbyists, UAS have astounding capabilities for every use. UAS operation will likely assimilate into everyday life in the future, but for now we must be responsible for using the machines safely, respecting the FAA regulations, and protecting our neighbors’ privacy. Explore the FAA’s website and the additional resources I have included below for more information. We, the Brand Constructors, wish you happy droning adventures and look forward to seeing the development of your projects and this amazing technology!