Why Part 107?
The following rationalizations are often used to try to avoid hiring or using an FAA Part 107 Certified Drone Pilot:
“My drone guy isn’t charging at all—it’s free.”
“My drone guy is giving me free drone work in exchange for tickets or dinner.”
“My drone guy only charges for editing drone photos/videos and not the flight(s) themselves.”
“My drone guy flies mostly for personal or non-profit use.”
“As a business owner, flying my drone for footage was just a one-time event.”
“I’m an established professional photographer just starting out with a drone and I watermark all my photos.”
“I’m a realtor and use a drone but I’m not charging my client for the photos.”
All of these scenarios are disallowed by the FAA as they are “in furtherance of a business” and represent commercial use. If a drone is flown for work, business, advertising, commercial purposes, for compensation (money or bartering), or is flown to attract business/tourists, this makes the operation commercial and requires a Part 107 certificate, even if no money changes hands. Bottom line: if any business or entity (including a non-profit or a fire department) benefits from the use of drones, there must be a Part 107 certificated pilot involved. Flying a drone without a Part 107 certificate is no different than a realtor operating without a real estate license: it’s not right and it presents major liability issues.
Any Part 107 drone pilot should be able to produce their UAS Certificate issued by the FAA. Further, if the drone pilot has been operating for more than 2 years, they should also be able to produce their most recent Federal Aviation Administration Airman Knowledge Test Report with a test score of 70% or better, and with an exam date within the last two years valid through the end of a 24 month period. (If the recurrent exam was taken and passed on March 6, 2020—the privileges can be exercised through March 31, 2022.)
WHY CAN’T I USE A NON-LICENSED OR RECREATIONAL DRONE PILOT FOR COMMERCIAL PURPOSES?
It’s not legal, it’s not safe, and it could result in more drone regulations.
Using a non-licensed, hobbyist, or recreational drone operator for commercial and/or real-estate purposes is not only unsafe (some in my area fly through frozen fog, fly directly over people and at very low altitudes, and other dangerous operations—including flying directly into fireworks), but also it puts your company’s reputation at risk should you hire or use non-certificated pilots due to safety and legality issues. Additionally, the drone industry needs to regulate itself, lest more stringent regulations be handed down because of unsafe or improper operations by hobbyists.
Any drone use that is “in furtherance of a business” requires the remote pilot to have an FAA Part 107 certificate, sometimes referred to as a drone license. More than a decade before drones, I operated multi-rotor, single-rotor, and fixed-wing aircraft and several years ago, I was certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly any drone under 55 pounds; a certification process that I re-test for every two years. As an FAA Part 107 certified drone pilot, I also hold the necessary waiver to conduct commercial flight operations at night, nationwide. I fully understand and adhere to complicated airspace rules and FAA UAS regulations and manage a fleet of advanced, professional-grade, and broadcast quality drones. Having flown drones for years, my cumulative flight operations experience exceeds hundreds of miles and flight hours logged, all without any injuries, incidents, or accidents—ever; nonetheless, all flight operations are insurable up to $25 million dollars. In the event of questions, direct access to industry leaders, FAA resources, and other expert contacts is just a phone call away. My work has been featured in print, television, and in documentaries; I am available for commercial marketing projects, events, real estate, inspections, as well as search and rescue missions.
Liability for unauthorized drone operations can fall on both the drone operator and the person who hired the drone operator. 14 CFR 1.1 defines operator as: “Operate, with respect to aircraft, for the purpose (except as provided in section 91.13 of this chapter) of air navigation including the piloting of aircraft, with or without the right of legal control (as owner, lessee, or otherwise).” Someone who causes the operation can be liable as well. Regarding the civil penalty provision, the drone operator faces fines of $1,100 per violation (as an individual acting as an airman), while the person who causes the operation could be liable for a fine of $11,000 (as an individual not acting as an airman).