I confess that when it comes to drones and aerial photography I’m a bit perplexed and dismayed. On one hand I have a lifelong love of airplanes and flying. And combining that with my love of photography the two together are a match made in my own personal heaven. (More about my Avgeek-ness at the end of this post)
But there are far too many drone "pilots" who are, as they say, defecating in the punch bowl.
Here's a brief summary of the FAA rules on UAV (Drone) operation.
Keep the unmanned aircraft within visual line-of-sight
Fly at or below 400 feet
Do not fly directly over people* (The term "over" refers to the flight of the small unmanned aircraft directly over any part of a person.)
Fly during daylight or civil twilight
Yield right of way to manned aircraft
Off course the full set of rules is much more extensive. In addition if one is flying their drone commercially, ie making money, they need a FAA Part 107 UAV Certification. Commercial includes any activity where the images or videos earn the operator income. This might include Real Estate, YouTube Videos with advertising fees, Inspectors etc.
FAA controls the airspace, local agencies / people control the ground. So in addition to the above rules, you need permission to take off and land, ie, you need a launch site. Which is currently prohibited without prior consent in most, almost all, public spaces in the San Juan Islands. That includes County and State Parks, Land Bank & Preservation Trust Land, BLM etc.
The disregard of these regulations is why I think most of the images and videos I see online are captured illegally which I feel is giving drones and their owners a very bad name. And if we're not careful it will soon be almost impossible to fly drones in most places.
Hi, I'm Bill and I'm an AVGEEK
I've been an AVGEEK, Aviation Geek, for a very, very long time. I've loved everything about airplanes and flying for as long as I can remember. I took private pilot ground school classes in my High School Aviation Class and followed that up with an Aerospace Engineering degree in College. My first job out of college was, ironically, working on UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), way back before they became the "cool" tech they are today. ("My" UAV, the TRA Model 324 launch starts at 5:45 into the video)
Along the way, when I could afford it, I took glider lessons in a Schweitzer 2-33 & Blanik L-13 (Not me in this video, although I wish it was)
And often my tasks meant working with and understand FAA regulations. So I was actually excited to dive back into the FAA world of rules and regulations as they applied to the new certification program for drone pilots. I had an idea that I could do a "quick and dirty" review and pass the required exam, but I wanted to dust all the cobwebs, so I signed up for multiple UAV courses and spent a number of weeks preparing for the exam and learning the ins and outs of:
Drone Laws & FAA Regulations
Weather & Micrometeorology
National Airspace System (NAS)
Drone Flight Operations & Communications
So now I can safely, and legally, combine my love of photography with my inner AVGEEK, to capture commercial aerial imagery.