Recommended Posts

Though my questions and thoughts could fit in several discussion forums, particularly the Real Estate one, I decided I'd throw this out here since it also has a direct bearing on regulations, restricted airspace, etc..

An ongoing issue I have in the area I am based in (and I’m sure most licensed sUAV operators have everywhere) is trying to compete for work with unlicensed drone operators doing commercial work as well as even licensed operators not getting the proper authorization to fly in restricted air spaces. 

Charlotte is particularly difficult with uptown being less than 5 miles from our airport and squarely within Class B airspace. I routinely see commercial drone videos that are clearly in this airspace being used by developers on their websites and advertisements. I would be very surprised if these drone operators have applied for and received FAA authorization because I know how difficult it is to get such FAA Authorization. 

In February of this year, I applied for authorization to fly in our Class B Airspace for a particular commercial development assignment I knew would be coming up this summer. I was happy to receive the authorization after 90 days. I was also pleased that they even broadened the very specific area I had originally requested to include all of the Class B airspace, not just the 1/2 mile radius I originally asked for! This authorization will last until September.

This opened up the option to market my ability to legally fly in this restricted area to other developers/ realtors. There are a lot of developments happening near uptown at present.

As part of my effort to market my work, I plan to educate these developers that just because someone shows they can fly a drone and supply them with aerial work, they should realize their own liability if they do not follow the normal due diligence and hire both a licensed drone operator AND an operator with the proper FAA authorization if their development or property lies within restricted airspace! 

I am hoping, to gather any recent articles or blog posts that speaks to such liability, both financial and legal, and wondering if those on this forum can share some with me? 

I did find this article from last year that helps and speaks about unlicensed operators flying commercially.

https://photographyforrealestate.net/2017/05/23/realtors-have-liability-for-hiring-an-unlicensed-drone-operator/

But it doesn’t specifically deal with operators flying illegally in restricted airspace, whether licensed or not, and the liability to their clients. I expect it could be even larger fines to both.

I also decided to ask about this specific issue in my own email to UAVhelp this morning and hope they will also respond on this subject. I will share any response I get on the forum when I hear back. 

Any other articles you personally know of would be great to hear about.

Thanks!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey, worked for that guy in the real estate forum I included a link to above. 

54 minutes ago, Dave Pitman said:

There has been a lot of discussion on this subject. 

Dave,

Recently? Maybe I didn’t dig deep enough in this forum. Can you point me to any of those discussions? Do they mention any real world examples where fines were levied? 

I agree it’s going to take a serious incident and lives lost but that’s the whole point in licensed operators educating clients and other operators. 

I have even reached out to our local police on an uptown shoot recently. Partly concerned that where I was flying might raise some unwanted attention and interruption by them during the shoot. Last year, some idiot with a drone decided to fly at night, above a crowd at our uptown baseball stadium during a game. Came close to hitting the police helicopter. They are still searching for the person. Even with that making the news, I found them pretty clueless as to the law and FAA regulations. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I spent some time Friday night with a lawyer for the enforcement branch of FAA.  He recently moved to a slightly different responsibility but he was until recently handling criminal enforcement actions at FAA.  Essentially he agreed that there is no enforcement at this time regarding UAV's.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Whether young small business drone operators may tend to push the boundaries and say “nothing will happen to me”, those that have run a successful business for years knows that skirting the rules is a recipe for disaster. Most developers and corporations are also very risk averse and for very good reasons. Simply put, the more you have, the more you have to lose. 

Sooner, rather than later, the s__t will hit the fan and the FAA will be pressured to come down hard on more operators and I expect, their clients as well. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually, the fan has been hit - literally!  Take the incident off Staten Island NY in Set 2017.  An Army UH-60 was struck about 3 miles off Staten Island and NTSB determined the drone operator to be at fault.  But the final outcome was one of education rather than criminal prosecution.  Here's a quick synopsis and you can find the full report online.  Oddly, this is the very area I grew up in and lived my whole life before moving to SE Georgia.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/johngoglia/2017/12/14/ntsb-finds-drone-pilot-at-fault-for-midair-collision-with-army-helicopter/#63571f7e7b3f

Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

“FAA officials told us that given its overall responsibilities for aviation safety and the lower risk posed by small UAS compared to manned aircraft, its resources for actively pursuing unsafe small UAS users are limited, and identifying such users is challenging,” 

Quote

As of May 2018, the FAA reports imposing only one civil penalty

Like we said.  ?

Link to post
Share on other sites

A quick update regarding the question on this I sent UAShelp.gov . 

I did receive a response but Instead of any meaningful answer, they just referred me to my local FSDO ( Flight Service District Office ). In other words, passed the buck. Same for a question I had sent them back in January on another topic. Guess they just found that one. 

I’ve emailed my questions to my district office now. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Recall my earlier comment "Don't expect an answer that addresses your question.  You're dealing with the FAA." Looks like that's what you got! And don't expect any concrete answers from your local FSDO.  They can't provide anything that even remotely resembles legal advice.  They also are not going to discuss enforcement actions (or the lack thereof). My guess is they will just not answer - hope I'm wrong. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

@photomon It is rampant in my neck of the woods too.  I hold airspace authorizations for Richmond Class C and Charlottesville Class D and a waiver to daylight authorizations.  Like you, I want to do things legal and safe.  We had a local TV reporter who flew her own Mavic over a big Christmas light display at night, clearly over people.  She had no commercial license or night waiver  We have a local newspaper who credits an individual for the aerial photos they publish.  Selling newspapers with ads is a commercial operation. When I look him up in the FAA airman registry--no license.  Realtors frequently do it on the down low with no license, registered drone or airspace authorizations.  I recently sent an email to National Association of Realtors (NAR) asking them if they had a policy memo on drone use--no answer.  I guess professional ethics and Federal law don't apply to realtors.  Wedding photographers are also culprits.  I have submitted the worst offenders to the FSDO and they reply back that they "handled the situation" with no feedback on the action they took.  The only way I can think of is to start forming local associations of drone pilots to push back on the unlicensed operators and other professional associations such as NAR chapters.  Part of it is an education, but some of them know exactly what they are doing and don't care because the FAA isn't throwing around violations and fines.  They simply don't have the manpower.  I recently attended an FAA webinar and in the chat box, someone said MLS is now requiring proof that the drone real estate photos were taken by licensed operators before they would post them to MLS.  It may be a local MLS thing.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Personally, it’s not just the business aspect. I have flown in helicopters to shoot aerials many times over the years, one of the news copter pilots is a friend of mine and my son is a Blackhawk pilot. I hope it doesn’t take a horrible disaster for things to change. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Lead by example.  If licensed operators spend much of their time worried about unlicensed operators then your probably not out there doing commercial operations.  

Im not advocating for illegal operators, and although we do all we can to operate safely and legally I think the FAA has created a climate where it’s next to impossible to operate profitably. The FAA is making criminals out of most of us.  This is nothing new, I was hoping thing would get better with Part107, but it only seems to have gotten worse.  

14 hours ago, Fotomon said:

my son is a Blackhawk pilot. I hope it doesn’t take a horrible disaster for things to change. 

I’m a helicopter pilot too, obviously no one wants a midair disaster of any kind,  but 107 is a feckless regulation that does very little to mitigate that risk.  Even then, I don’t lose any sleep over worrying about it.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.