The recreational use of drones is relatively well known. Many people purchase a quadcopter and fly it around their yard or nearby open areas for pure enjoyment and/or to take photos and videos. What many people may not realize, however, is that there are also many ways to use drones commercially. As a result, commercial drone use can be a more confusing area to enter into. What follows is an in-depth look at commercial drone use.
What is commercial drone use?
As defined by the FAA, commercial drone use is any use of a drone (quadcopter or otherwise) “in connection with a business.” In essence, this means that commercial drone use applies to any use of a drone from which you hope to profit.
Commercial drone use can cover a wide variety of activities. In general, the term refers to any activity with a drone that provides (1 Profit through the sale of photos or videos (2 Provision of any kind of service or (3 Monitoring the progress of a business project. Following is a list of some specific activities that constitute the commercial use of drones:
- Wedding photography or videography
- Land surveying
- Utilities inspection
- Pest control
How does commercial drone use differ from recreational drone use?
Sometimes, activities such as those listed above can fall under either recreational or commercial use of drones. The difference between an activity being recreational and an activity being commercial has to do with its purpose.
For example, you can take photos and videos of your drone to enjoy by yourself or with friends and family as a recreational hobby. However, if you use your drone to take wedding photos or to help with a land survey, you are engaging in commercial drone use because you are rewarded for your work with the drone.
In addition, any use of a drone in connection with a business counts as commercial drone use. For example, you may not be selling photos from your drone for a profit, but using your drone to survey your business’ land in preparation for an expansion would still count as commercial drone use. As a result, take into consideration both why you are using your drone how you are using your drone in order to determine if the activity is commercial or recreational.
Is commercial drone use legal?
Until recently, the answer to that question would have been no. However, just this year, the FAA released regulations that make the commercial use of drones legal. With this new change, businesses can now begin to enjoy all of the benefits that drones bring. From mapping to photography and more, drones can now complete tasks that benefit businesses of all kinds. However, there are certain regulations that govern the commercial use of drones and that, therefore, you must follow before you profit from your drone use.
What is a commercial drone?
Often, the only characteristic that separates a recreational drone from a commercial drone is the use to which it is put. For example, the DJI Phantom series of quadcopters is often used for recreational purposes (to take photos and videos for private use and enjoyment). However, these drones come with such advanced technology, and excellent camera and video capabilities, that you could easily use them to take photos or videos to sell or to engage in other types of commercial use. As a result, as stated above, you need to consider the use to which you are putting your drone in order to decide whether it counts as a commercial drone or as a recreational drone.
However, some drones are naturally more suited to commercial use than are recreational drones. For example, some small toy drones are meant to be used primarily indoors, making it difficult or impossible to apply them to commercial uses. Other drones are built specifically to allow for commercial use. The DJI Phantom series of quadcopters falls into this category. They can be used recreationally, or they can be used commercially, depending upon your preferences. Other examples of drones for commercial use include the DJI Inspire 1, the Hubsan H301S, and the DJI Matrice 100. These drones are smart choices for commercial applications because of the strength, stability, advanced cameras, and other high tech capabilities with which they come.
What are the regulations for using a drone commercially?
As of August 29, 2016, anyone who wants to engage in commercial drone use must meet a number of requirements. These requirements are designed to make commercial drone use safer by ensuring that everyone who uses drones for commercial use is knowledgeable and competent enough to do so. Often, these requirements are referred to collectively as the FAA drone certification. However, the certification you receive has less to do with your drone and more to do with your competence as a drone pilot. Following are the “FAA drone certification” requirements and what is need to satisfy each:
- You must be at least 16 years old to engage in commercial drone use.
- You must earn your remote pilot certification.
- You can earn this part of your FAA drone certification by taking a test at any one of the FAA’s more than 600 testing centers. This exam covers your knowledge in a number of areas, including weather, regulations, airspace classification, and the operation of your aircraft.
- If you do not feel prepared to pass this exam, you can always use a test prep course such as the one described below, to gain the knowledge you need to become certified as a remote pilot.
- Alternatively, if you do not hold the remote pilot certification, you can still operate a drone for commercial purposes. However, you must do so in the presence and under the direction of someone who does hold that license.
- You must be vetted by the TSA
- In order to use a drone commercially, you must also undergo vetting by the Transportation Security Administration. This organization is the same one that provides security at airports across the country. Their vetting process is based primarily upon a background check.
- You must take an exam every two years to confirm your continued knowledge of drone flight.
These requirements will certify you as a remote pilot, qualified to operate a drone commercially. In addition, however, there are other regulations with which you must comply. These regulations affect the drone you use commercially and where you fly it. These additional regulations are as follows:
- Commercial drone use is restricted to drones that weigh less than 55 pounds.
- You (or the certified remote pilot) must carefully inspect your drone before every flight.
- You must report all accidents resulting in more than $500 of damage to the FAA within 10 days of the incident.
- You must only fly your drone in Class G airspace or in Class B, C, D, and E airspace with the approval of the air traffic controller.
- Always allow right of way to manned aircraft (i.e. helicopters and airplanes).
What if I want to use drones commercially but do not meet these requirements?
If you do not meet all of the above requirements but still wish to fly drones for commercial use, you can apply for a certificate of waiver. This certificate will allow you to fly your drone commercially even though you do not meet all the requirements. For example, you may be allowed to fly your drone in otherwise prohibited airspace, or to fly a drone that weighs more than 55 pounds. Make sure never to engage in commercial drone use without either following all of the regulations mentioned above or obtaining a certificate of waiver from the FAA.
What are the rules for commercial drone use?
There are certain guidelines and rules for civil conduct when flying a drone recreationally. Similarly, there are guidelines that lay out the fundamental rules you need to follow during the commercial use of drones. These rules have been established by a government commission to ensure that others’ privacy and safety are ensured while you operate your drone. Following are a few of these rules:
- Always fly less than 400 feet above ground level.
- Tell people before you take pictures of videos of them.
- Never fly over people without their permission.
- Never violate others’ privacy.
- Make way for manned aircraft.
- Always remain in sight of your drone.
- Always remain aware of what is going on around you.
- Do not use a moving vehicle while flying your drone.
- Do not fly over others’ property without permission.
- Do not collect personal information from others unless you have to.
- Always delete others’ personal information upon their request.
- Never fly over 100 miles per hour.
- Always fly during the day or twilight, as defined as 30 minutes before sunrise and after sunset.
- Keep others’ personal information secure.
- Listen to others’ concerns about your drone flying.
- Avoid behavior that others might find irritating.
Sometimes, you will need to engage in activities such as flying over others’ personal property or collecting personal data. If you are in a rural area, you may fly your drone from a moving vehicle. However, these rules are guidelines that you should follow when at all possible. If you follow these guidelines, you will help to keep the drone field a trusted, reliable, and respected area of aeronautics.
If you need to earn your remote pilot certification in order to fly drones for commercial use, consider the Drone Pilot Ground School. This is a course designed to prepare you to take the drone certification test required by the FAA. This course provides high-quality preparation for the drone certification test by giving you training by a Gold Seal Certified Flight Instructor. In addition, you can trust this course to provide you with comprehensive preparation, because it trains you in every area covered by the FAA’s test.
The Drone Pilot Ground School does more than prepare you to pass the drone certification test, however. It also gives you instruction in actual drone flying. As a result, you leave the course knowing up to nine flight sequences. In addition, this course walks you through the legal considerations involved in beginning a drone business. When you are finished, yo will be equipped to legally and proficiently pass the drone certification test, fly your drone, and begin looking toward starting your own business if you wish.
The Drone Pilot Ground School takes place online with more than 30 lectures and tests. This level of convenience means that you get to access your course whenever you want, anytime of the day or night. You can even print out lectures and tests, revisit lectures, and study at whatever speed you desire.
You also get access to phone and email support when you run into problems. Your preparation also includes access to test questions (including 5 full-length tests) in order to measure your grasp of the concepts under discussion.
Every lecture comes with a variety of materials to help you hear, see, and test your knowledge of the material. These include materials to print, quizzes, an outline of the lecture, and an audio lecture as well. With this kind of access to comprehensive, self-paced information, you can easily prepare to pass the drone certification test and enjoy the commercial use of drones.