May 21, 2014

Get Ready: Using Drones, UAVs, & Quadcopters for Commercial Use Could Be Legal Very Soon

dji phantom gopro hero3 aerial rig quadcopter minicopter helicopter mountIf you live outside of the United States, there is a good chance you aren't even thinking about this issue anymore, but here in America, the use of drones, UAVs, UASs, quadcopters, or whatever name you prefer (depending on what kind of flying vehicle it is), have been illegal for commercial usage -- though that hasn't stopped many from using them in that way. Right now they are legal for any non-commercial usage, but new rules coming this fall could expedite their legality for those wanting to use them on paid projects.

Here is a snippet from The Verge on this:

The new rule, which will be proposed in November, would allow commercial drones less than 55 pounds to be used in such activities as long as they were considered low risk to humans, structures, and other aircraft. Those approvals could come ahead of a larger reevaluation of FAA regulations covering small unmanned aircraft, expected sometime next year.

This issue has only gotten more heated as cheap UAVs have taken the industry by storm. The FAA was already planning on making rules for the use of smaller unmanned aerial vehicles by 2015, as it released this roadmap late last year, even though technically they were given permission by Congress to grant permits for commercial use back in 2012. This decision was bound to happen sooner or later, especially as the issue has been contested in court. Earlier this year, a federal administrative judge struck down a $10,000 fine from the FAA for drone usage, and stated that they were already legal because they should be considered "model aircraft."

It will be interesting to see how this permit process will work, and how long it will take to come into effect -- though the hope is that they have something in place by the end of the year. The hesitancy from the FAA is partially understandable, especially as people begin to use them more and more in populated areas. There is no question they can be extremely dangerous to both people on the ground, and other aircraft in the air, and as their popularity continues to increase, so will the accidents. The decision is certainly a step forward. Considering how much they can bring up the production values of a video for relatively little cost, it's great that we will finally have some solid rules about the legality of UAVs for commercial use.

Links:

[via The Verge]

Your Comment

17 Comments

It is not illegal to operate a multirotor or any other RC craft illegally. The article should be titled there could be new regulations soon.

May 21, 2014 at 2:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Mike

What you're saying is a technicality, but it's essentially illegal for commercial use at this point, based on the way the FAA has gone after those operating commercially.

May 21, 2014 at 2:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

Yeah but what is their definition of "commercial" When they drafted the very unspecific regulations they currently have, they were not thinking about quad-copters such as the DJI Phantom. They were specifically thinking about those large scale drones being used by Boeing and larger corporations.
I'm not large corporation. I'm an independent, self-employed, video producer trying to make a living. Not a large scale corporations trying to search the ocean for oil (or whatever they use it for, I read they are using it to fly the Artic in oil exploration).

June 13, 2014 at 8:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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There was an article from fstoppers awhile ago about a drone ruling and commercial working be legal. Is this different?

http://fstoppers.com/judgement-makes-commercial-drones-completely-legal-...

May 21, 2014 at 2:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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alex

I mention that specific ruling in the post, but even with that ruling, the FAA will probably continue going after commercial operations. These new regulations would be proposed by the FAA themselves.

May 21, 2014 at 3:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

Like I mentioned below. The FAA considers it "ilegal", but it's a policy, big difference there. Now, I do agree with you that they can still get you if they wanted to.

A case has been made though with Trappy's outcome, which opens up the door to defend yourself if you get in a similar situation with the FAA. It's still a lot of trouble to go through.

Due to these policies many businesses that were doing AP/AV for hire before the policies were brought in, have been unjustly shut down losing thousands of dollars in the process and in many cases losing the only job they had. It's not right, and it should stop. If more cases are brought against the FAA things should start to change sooner, otherwise don't hope for a big change coming 2015, we may possibly have to wait even longer, like we have had to all these years.

May 21, 2014 at 3:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Right, not illegal, just against their regulations. But it's far easier to explain it as illegal, especially since they are allowed by Congress to enforce these regulations in whatever way they see fit, and have put a lot of effort into shutting anyone down doing commercial UAV work.

May 21, 2014 at 3:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

That's right, they can enforce it if they wanted to. I'm looking forward to open skies, the sooner the better. :)

May 21, 2014 at 4:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Mike is right.

I'm not a lawyer but I know a bit about this whole thing. Back in 2008 when I started assembling big rc helicopters for AP/AV (not multicopters, they barely existed back then, with the exception of mikrokopter) these policies/regulations were already in place, they actually date back to 2006 or earlier, if I remember well. I wanted to get into AP badly, but because of their rules and possibly lawsuits from the FAA I've instead focused on selling them rather than flying for hire.

You have to understand that the FAA uses words as illegal etc etc, but this is not a law, it's a policy, it's a rule, but not a law. Now, don't get me wrong, the FAA has the ability to ground you if they wanted to, they can send you cease and desist orders, and fine you. It helps if you use common sense and avoid flying in cities, over people or near airports, which would otherwise bring attention. The federal judge who stroke down Trappy's fine is absolutely right, he saw the policy for what it was, and made a righteous judgement based on facts. If it had been a law then things would have been different of course.

Before the FAA got involved with our sector, it was, and still is, a very profitable business. Some companies/individuals making in the order of $2-3k per day of shooting with prosumer cameras and multicopters made for professional work. It's possible, perhaps, there are big players wanting a big portion of the market for themselves and pushing us back with policies, but this is just a theory. It wouldn't be too far from reality if this is the case though in this day and age where the love for money is the root of all evil.

May 21, 2014 at 3:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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RC Helicopter use is covered by my business liability policy. At NO additional cost (part of the standard policy). So it seems that actuaries don't see them as a problem.

The present rule is sorta like allowing soccer-moms to drive tractor-trailer rigs, but outlawing their use by freight lines 8-0

For good use of helicopter shots check-out Morituri. Shot by Conrad Hall way back in 1965. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THRE4PM3IGw They also hung dolly-track off the side of the ship.

May 21, 2014 at 5:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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c.d.embrey

No doubt Obama/Clinton administration will use drones to take out veterans and libertarians.
Whilst filming in 4k.

May 21, 2014 at 6:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tanner

What about when someone straps C4 the size of a RED EPIC to a FoxTech Kraken 1300 and flies FPV from a mile away through the dome opening of an NFL game then detonates in the crowd?

Interesting how people went to sleep after 911 and then woke up again to these realities after the Boston bombing.

Another one is brewing.....

May 21, 2014 at 6:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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The scary truth...

What's the max speed of these RC's? One could probably bring one down with a bird shot off a single reload.
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Anyhow, if an RC does hit someone, rather than something, then the lawyers will get involved and sue the living pants off every RC manufacturer. And that will be the end of the road for most uses, aside of large corporations capable of footing the insurance costs upfront.

May 21, 2014 at 8:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Love this site to death, but this headline is not even close to reality.

http://www.suasnews.com/2014/05/29330/its-official-scrap-2015-for-uas-in...

May 21, 2014 at 7:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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RTL

People are using the UAV's faster than the regulations can keep up. Robots will rule the sky's soon enough.

July 8, 2014 at 3:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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quads will raul the the sky

July 19, 2014 at 7:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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steve

I recently purchased a Phantom 2 with 3D gimbal and GoPro Hero3. Also added an FPV system to it. To me this is a hobby. Though an expensive one. Being curious I looked into commercial applications for this technology, and found like everyone else that this is illegal per FAA rules.

What is ironic though is that I would overall trust a guy doing this commercially than a hobbiest. Not knocking hobbiest as I am one, but posting YouTube videos showing vertical flights of 2000 feet is careless.

Looking at what it would take to do this as a living is a far reach. These guys are buying some very expensive copter and camera systems. These guys have a huge investment in time and money and as a result I believe they are a very safety cautious group.

August 8, 2014 at 1:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DG