By Sarah Ackerman
If you've recently attended an electronics trade show, a photography expo, or wandered in to your local camera store, you've seen drones (a.k.a. unmanned aircraft systems or UAS) everywhere. They are an awesome, new, relatively affordable tool for capturing aerial photography! As a photographer, of course you want to create with the latest and greatest technology available to you for your clients. There are also a lot of posts on social media and talks on tradeshow floors of how it's legal to use drones for photographic purposes. And that's mostly true...Here's the rub: It becomes unlawful the moment you use UAS for anything beyond hobby or recreational uses, to include using drones for business purposes (selling drone images or using them in promotional material), except for the very limited exception described below.
There is only one specific situation in which you are allowed to use drones for business use. You're a professional photographer AND your business has a Section 333 exemption from the FAA (a complicated process which usually involves an attorney) AND your drone is being operated by an FAA-licensed pilot.
PPA has been working with the FAA to change that, and just this week had a very informative discussion in D.C. with five members of the FAA's UAS integration team. We are pleased to report that the new rule for business-related drone use will most likely be released by June. They confirmed that they are prepared for a late spring/early summer release. The rule will take effect 30 days after it's released. These regulations will apply to drones weighing under 55 lbs. PPA expects the new regulations will be similar to the proposal released by the FAA last year which would allow for the use of drones by professional photographers if three requirements are met:
1. The user has obtained a small UAS airman certificate which will be earned by passing a computerized knowledge test.
2. The user has registered all drones. The FAA's online drone registration system should be expanded to include registration of drones that will be used for business-related purposes by the end of this month (March).
3. The user follows all of the rules - There will be restrictions on maximum height, maximum speed, airspace etc. Based on the proposal, we expect the restrictions to be very reasonable.
This is a lot of exciting progress coming very soon that will allow professional photographers to use drones in their business...but for now
, the moment you sell your drone images or use them to promote your business, you're operating outside of legal regulations. And if you're caught, you could face very significant fines.
If you're using drones as a hobbyist and taking images for image-capturing's sake, that's totally ok! Keep on honing your skillset, so when the FAA changes their rules, you'll be 110% ready! Just be sure your drone is registered - regardless of your pro-status, or the purpose of your images, you'll need to register your drone and yourself as the owner. Here's a quick and handy guide on how this easy registration process works
As we expect more changes in the coming weeks and months, PPA will continue to keep you updated on the new rules and regulations regarding drone use. Be More In The Know.
Sarah Ackerman manages all things social media for PPA and Imaging USA. When she's not living on the internet, she loves improv comedy, going on wilderness adventures, gallivanting around the globe, knitting, wood working and yoga.