Luke Dillon

Commercial footage query

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Hey everyone, I was a runner a 5K race last weekend. I came across someone flying a drone who was an employee of a local media company and was getting footage for that event. This person did not have his Part 107 license, so I emailed the media company, who said the race was not a commercial shoot and were not contracted or paid in regards to the drone footage. However, I went to the race site and did see a drone photo that they posted. I'm not sure if I believe that they were not paid and thinking about reaching out to the race committee. Does it count as commercial footage if it's not paid for?

As a drone community, we are trying to work on making progress with sUAS's and I feel that these situations hinder that ability. Thoughts?

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Employees of media companies can also be hobbyists drone pilots and interested runners.  I would imagine that the website had other photographs and videos from interested participants that weren't compensated for work.  

How do you know they didn't have a 107?  Part of the issue is the FAA has inadvertently created two classes of operators, hobbyists and professionals, and both can operate in the same environment under different rules.  The operator gets to choose.

The thing that technically makes the event commercial is not whether the operator was paid, its whether the participants paid to enter the race.  If any of the footage is used to promote next years race then it's commercial.  But by that definition almost all drone flights would need to be conducted under part107.  

How many other drones were present at the race?  Did the person flying the drone your talking about do it safely?  Why do you think it's necessary to rain on the race committees parade?  Do you ever drive faster than the speed limit or walk across the street outside of a crosswalk?   

Good for that drone operator to take pictures of an event that lots of people helped organize and participate in and share it with them.  Is that what you hope to prevent next year?  

Sounds like the drone operator was doing a good thing and maybe you should leave the decision to enforce rule107 to the FAA.

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1 hour ago, Luke Dillon said:

Hey everyone, I was a runner a 5K race last weekend. I came across someone flying a drone who was an employee of a local media company and was getting footage for that event. This person did not have his Part 107 license, so I emailed the media company, who said the race was not a commercial shoot and were not contracted or paid in regards to the drone footage. However, I went to the race site and did see a drone photo that they posted. I'm not sure if I believe that they were not paid and thinking about reaching out to the race committee. Does it count as commercial footage if it's not paid for?

As a drone community, we are trying to work on making progress with sUAS's and I feel that these situations hinder that ability. Thoughts?

The shot was commercial the minute they posted the photo on their website. If the aerial photos/videos are used to promote a business their use is commercial, money doesn't have to change hands. From the FAA website:

"Recreational or hobby UAS use is flying for enjoyment and not for work, business purposes, or for compensation or hire."

The FAA cannot be everywhere and it is up to responsible operators to report outlaw individuals. Kudos to you.

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This is the problem, you immediately accuse this operator of being an "outlaw" when it's equally plausible that the operator met the criteria of being a hobbyists.  

They could have certainly done this mission for the love of flying and a passion for running.  I am a commercial operator and volunteer aerial all the time for non profits etc.  I am not responsible for what they do with the footage after I've delivered it.  I do it to support things that I'm interested in and the fact that they might use it to promote next years event does not change the fact that I did it for the enjoyment of flying.

Its against the law for the FAA to regulate commerce.   

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As far as I know the FAA has not won a single case where they tried to fine operators.  The law is way too vague, and like I said they cannot regulate commerce so they have settled every case.  Even the $1.2M fine was significantly reduced and will probably end up around $1200 on appeal.  Even that is way too much.

When you consider all the good things drones can do for people, and how many operators are willing to provide their services for free only to be told that as a result of some ridiculous interpretation of a statement on the FAA's website that their actions are considered commercial, its stupid.

You can't legislate stupidity.  There are way too many bureaucratic pinheads looking for someone make an example of.  I think its a great idea if we report anyone who we think doesn't meet that well defined standard and help them do their job.  

There's an FAA report circulating how safe they think drones actually are.  Somehow flying commercially makes them less safe?  Hardly! 

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Thank you for all of your feedback. I understand the FAA rules are vague now but I still believe it is our responsibility as commercial drone pilots to try to enforce the rules. In my opinion, this media company broke the rules by having one of their employees fly a drone for commercial use without a Part 107 certificate. I know the person didn't have one because when I asked he didn't even know what it was. Acts like this also ruin business for the rest of us, who went through the effort to get FAA certified to fly a drone for commercial use and know the laws.

 

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Do you work for the FAA?  If you don't then it is not your job to enforce the rules.  You can no more enforce FAA rules than if your not a police officer give someone a speeding ticket.

What problem are you trying to solve?  You want to make sure that the race sponsors don't get aerial next year?  Trying to get the operator fined?  Do you have a 107?  

So there you go, you caught him red handed, report him.  Make his life a living hell because he's scum.  They posted a picture! so that makes it commercial.  Its not possible that you might be wrong?  Its not possible that this operator just loves flying drones and had a relative or friend in the race and decided to share his images with the race committee?  What kind of low life would do that?

So you really think its your business to walk up to anyone flying RC and ask them what they're doing? And you do it under the "we have to protect the community..."

How about instead of complaining about what you think others are doing wrong, you go out and do it better.  If you want to "make progress" in the sUAS world why not inspire people with what drones are capable of.   

"I'm not sure if I believe that they were not paid"  so not only do you apparently work for the FAA but your also a judge.   

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Chuck, this is a forum that is supposed to be helpful and collaborative for everyone. I was just posing a question and concern as a friendly sUAS pilot and asking for useful feedback. I will respect your opinion but I would appreciate less hostility.

Thanks.

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I'm sorry if you don't like my candor, I get it, it was rude to pretty much say that you should mind your own business.  Do you have any idea of what kind of s**t storm might come down on that operator as a result of your inquiry?  I'm not sure how much the FAA cares about the truth.  

If everyone wants a better safer sUAV community then everyone needs to be responsible for their own actions.  Do you call 1-800-howamIdriving every time a commercial vehicle passes you on the freeway?  If their drunk, or driving recklessly, sure make the call but you probably shouldn't call because you think their drivers license is expired.

You think my words are hostile?  What do you think that operator would think about your actions?  Do you think he might think you were hostile?  

Its easy for people on forums to armchair quarterback this kind of scenario, but everyone had better remember that no matter how well prepared you are as a 107 operator I will guarantee that there will be missions where you might be operating within the intent of the law but outside the "letter" of the it and you'd better hope that when you do there isn't someone there waiting to report you.

You may not like my "thoughts" but you did ask.  

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Both @Luke Dillon and @Av8Chuck have valid points, both have slightly different delivery methods...

Luke,
Perhaps next time, help the person understand how to provide this service for the race committee in a way that is in compliance with the law, without implying he is breaking it at the specific moment? Or how about starting a dialog with a race committee member to help educate them on how they can satisfactorily obtain drone footage that is captured in compliance with part 107?

I agree that as a community, we need to stick together, but it should be done so in a positive way so as to encourage and foster growth, not "OMG I got reported to the FAA". Chuck has a valid point that we are not FAA employees and cannot enforce the law as a police officer would, the best we can do is to simply report it to local law enforcement. However that report will take a long time to come to fruition and may end up getting dismissed in the end and in the meantime the operator would continue to fly at races. 

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Ha! Is it possible to agree with everyone at the same time?

Here is my two cents. Safety, safety, safety. We have all see the videos of drones falling out the sky on to people at these types of events. Every accident makes our jobs harder with the poor publicity that follows. 

If this person was operating safely, I would probably just asked what he was flying and go on with my day, If he was operating over people, or other unsafe manner, I would defiantly question it. It is like @Av8Chuck said you don't call 1-800-howamIdriving if they are just speeding passed you. You call if they are swerving or visibly texting.

With that said, Did this pilot take a paying gig away from a licensed pilot? We will never know, but if so that is wrong also. 

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Part 107 is a good framework to allow the growth of the commercial drone industry, the FAA did a great job using the NPRM process and getting this mostly right.

The rules of 107 are quite specific, the trouble is that the definition of "commercial" is arbitrary and capricious.  As a private pilot I can take aerial and post it on my website, I can even sell it later and not be on the wrong side of this issue as long as I was not hired or flew with the expressed intent of doing commercial photography.

 But the same FAA rules do not apply to drones, so the FAA is trying to regulate commerce and they are not allowed to do that.  They will sort this out.  But as a community we should not be so quick to judge.  Did that operator break the law?  I don't know, but I'm willing to give him the benifit of the doubt either way.  

When the difinition of "commercial" is so arbitrary how can we be so certian that the operator did not fly this mission for the love of flying?  Just because an aerial picture ended up on the event website doesn't mean that it was commercial.  If you were the operator and took a picture of the event wouldn't you want to share it with the organizers?  

There's way too much grey area for us as a community to start vilifying each other.

Edited by Av8Chuck
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