Even though it may seem obvious, the FAA isn’t completely clueless. They’ve caught on to drone companies that charge for everything but their actual drone services. Let me give you a simple, theortical example.
Company A sells a drone based video package for $1,000. They charge $1,000 for the creation of the video, this $1,000 is used to pay for all “editing” expenses. Compnay A claims the actual raw video, collected by a drone operator, is provided “free” of charge.
Please don’t set yourself up folks. This is not a work-around and it is not a safe, short-term solution. The FAA is very clear:
Unless you are flying only for hobby or recreational purposes, you will need FAA authorization via a Section 333 grant of exemption to fly your unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for your business. This applies even if you are only flying to supplement or aide your business and not charging fees for doing so.
For further information regarding the FAA’s interpretation of ‘hobby or recreational’ flying, please see the FAA’s Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (PDF).
Protect yourself and your business by flying legal with a Section 333 Exemption. Considering Drone Universities provides its qualifying graduates with free Section 333 Exemption services, in my opinion, it’s hard to justify risk.