What are you doing re: illegal drone flights?

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I know this is a reoccurring issue that surfaces on this forum and in almost every other sUAS community I've seen in some variation.

Got an email from one of our students and wanted to share below.

How would you respond?



Hey Alan,

More and more I am seeing people without P107 and flying heavy UAV at inappropriate times.

I worked hard to get my license and I don’t want to be a snitch...but it has become something that is infringing upon my career.

Especially when people are hiring these people for very little money and they in turn get their shots in final productions just because I told them I’d need to get permission to do, let’s say, flying at night.

Part of me wants to report these individuals but at the same time I don’t feel the FAA has much authority to enforced the laws they created in the first place.

Everyone wants to be their own drone operator for their own company and it’s making finding legit gigs difficult with all these “air pirates”.

Can you give me some advise on what to do without being directly involved / someone knowing I am the one reporting the violation?

I’ve had to turn some gigs down because of people wanting to fly in illegal places, and it’s costing me my career.



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This is always a sticky topic and like it or not this is a symptom of a bigger issue.  If your losing business to this sort of thing you should be questioning your business model and the companies your trying to do business with.

There will always be idiots who ignore or are ignorant of the law, you cant regulate stupid.  But the movie industry and the evolution of the application of drones in that industry might provide some insight to how things are changing.  Most studios require a ton of insurance, they would like a 333 exemption, and you have to submit a PSSP (Project Specific Safety Plan) before you can even step onto their location.  

Does that mean that every production company in the entertainment industry require this?  Not hardly.  But, the guy that shows up to work for a production company without at least a Part107 isn't really the idiot that should concern legal operators, its the idiot that hires them.  The only reason a company would hire someone who doesn't have a certificate of insurance or a 107 is because they don't want to pay.  Do you really want to work for that company?

Most companies know the value of solving real problems, its up to you to be able to demonstrate your ability to accomplish the required task and charge accordingly.  Solve problems that people care about and  you should be able to charge $2K plus per mission.  Don't and you'll get $200.


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Absolutely what @Av8Chuck said, in every way, plus some thoughts.

When I first started realizing the impact these 'air pirates' (great term, btw) COULD have on my market clientele, I immediately went into education action.  I spent time teaching them, small bits at a time, about potential pitfalls, fines and other consequences of hiring non-Part 107 operators.  

Here's the caveat - I made sure to NEVER speak poorly of the operators, and I specifically avoided saying anything to the effect of 'Hire me because I'm so Part 107 certified and professional'.  Instead, the approach was an effort to truly tell them what I had learned of the legalities and attachments to not following them, followed by a recommendation to make sure that they verify Part 107 Certification & airspace authorizations with whomever they hire for aerial work.  That's it.  No plug for our own business, outside of the company logo on the email letterhead & signature.  

It didn't take long for it to circle around into client loyalty and most recently unsolicited recommendations & endorsements by entire brokerages as 'the go-to drone guy'.  

There are a million ways to run a successful business.  Find a few that work for you, and don't bother wasting ANY energy on those 'air pirates'. ?

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All above interesting and to the point 

in the real estate industry these air pirates are pervasive. As a Former State President of Ny State Association of Realtors I am most concerned that these folks are not only not following the law ( subject to a fine of when caught) but are submitting their photos into a national Multiple Liating Setvice for the benefit of profit ( oh really) problem is the Realtor Association doesn’t seem to care if their members are in violation of federal law by using their photos videos in a commercial manner. This a a real problem of ethics on their part. We as an industry ignore the rules or FAA regs yet Proport  to follow a strict standard of professional ethics.I smell a rat. 

We as professional FAA certified part 107 folks are entitled to have others account for their misbehavior. Not to be snitches or sneaks. We are not the sneaks those that knowingly play Drone Professional when they are nothing more than sky Vernon are the problem and as i see it the FAA and other industry leaders like the Realtor Associations and Multiple Listing Services need to screen their members for proper accountability. 

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@Briarcliff--spot on.  If I were practicing real estate without a license, the local real estate association would be all over me.  Realtors are taught to act ethically and legally at all times, but they turn a blind eye to drone use very easily.  One of the problems I see is lack of a National Drone Association or something like that that can advocate on a professional basis with real estate, insurance and construction industry associations to educate and advocate on a larger basis and yes, even lobby congress if needed.  AOPA has embraced drones, but that is not their primary bread and butter.  MLS should require drone license numbers before posting aerial shots.  Problem solved.

If I see something blatant on a commercial basis I will email the FSDO in my region and provide them links or photos of the violations.  For example, a county newspaper photographer was publishing an aerial photo in the newspaper almost ever week and credited the photographer.  I looked his name up in the FAA airman registry and bingo, no certificate of any kind.  Sent the FAA examples from the newspaper links.  So far, I haven't seen anymore photos.  Saw another local news tweet on Twitter of a reporter's story on a large Christmas lights display.  The reporter flew her drone at night, over people and broadcast the footage.  She did not have a license, proper drone night equipage or a waiver to daylight opns.  Sent it all to FSDO.  I can understand the FAA going easy on a kid with a drone, but commercial businesses should start receiving large fines and it will clean up the battlefield a little.  Problem is, the FAA did not anticipate the expansion of drone operations and does not have the manpower to do "ramp checks".  So right now, we have to police our own or let these clowns define our industry.  You can easily search the FAA site and drill down to your local FSDO office and their is an email submission box to contact them.

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Like others said, look to other types of companies to get work. Large engineering firms usually have strict ethics rules that encourage them to follow laws and regulations. Educating them in the reason why they should use a P107 pilot instead of an unlicensed individual would go a long way in getting an in with them. 

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