It seems like at least once a week I find myself having a conversation with a filmmaker or photographer who is struggling to understand the current state of rules, with regard to the commercial use of drones. And who can blame them? Digging through the FAA's website to get clear information is a painful exercise, and things continue to change every few months. This video features Chris Newman, a professional drone pilot, to break the current policies down in a clear language, and he tells us what to expect next from the FAA.
I'd skip to about 2:40 in the video to get right to the point, there's a lot of background information about Devin and Chris before that, so if you want to get right to it, just skip ahead.
Here's a rundown of important points Chris covers:
• if you don't make money flying, you're considered a "hobbyist"
• if you are a hobbyist, all you have to do is register your drone online for $5
• failure to register as a hobbyist could leave you open for expensive fines if you fly in restricted areas
• if you make money flying, you are considered to be "commercial"
• commercial flyers need to apply for an FAA 333 exemption to fly legally
• commercial flyers are required to have a pilot's license (sport, private, or recreation)
As far as what's coming next from the FAA, many of us (myself included) are waiting for an updated set of rules with an easier system to register for commercial flying, which would include not having to get a pilot's license. In February, this happened: (from faa.gov)
The FAA is establishing an aviation rulemaking committee with industry stakeholders to develop recommendations for a regulatory framework that would allow certain UAS to be operated over people who are not directly involved in the operation of the aircraft. The FAA is taking this action to provide a more flexible, performance-based approach for these operations than what was considered for Micro UAS. The committee will begin its work in March and issue its final report to the FAA on April 1.
That report was filed, and now it's up to the FAA to decide what they are going to change based on this report. According to Chris in the video above, there's a bill working through Congress right now (the Micro-drone Bill) which would allow commercial flying without a 333 exemption, if your drone weighs under 4.4lbs. This would include the Phantom series of drones.
Lastly, Chris says that in June of this year, a new law (Part 107) is planned to come out that might replace the 333 exemption law, which would make it so you don't need your pilot's license. We won't know for sure until we hear from Congress, how this will affect current and future commercial flying, but we are certainly all anxious to find out.