You’ve got your brand new drone and you are excited to start your brand new drone business. Your first instinct might be to apply for a “commercial drone license.” The problem is, there is no commercial drone license.
Yes, that’s right, regardless of what you may have been told by your local drone “snake-oil salesmen,” the FAA has not yet issued a drone license. Not only do drone licenses not exist today, the only indicator we have that they will exist “soon,” is from a NPRM or Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. (Yes, proposed rulemaking.)
In the absence of final regulations, most commercial operators have received authorization through the use of a Section 333 Exemption. Essentially, this is a process by which a commercial operator requests an exemption from existing regulations, which would normally restrict the commercial use of UAS. While a good first step, these authorizations are extremely limited in scope. The standing blanket authorization received with an exemption allows the operator to fly only during the day, in Visual Flight Rule (VFR) conditions, at least five miles from an airport with an operating control tower and below 200 feet. Additionally, the UAS must stay within sight of the pilot at all times. Operations outside these guidelines must apply for a Standard Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA), a process which may take up to 60 days.
Less reputable companies may try to operate in the gray area, but the FAA has been crystal clear.
Many companies might be tempted to use UAS on their own without proper authorization, but the government has made it abundantly clear that these infractions will not be overlooked. In addition, there has been a sharp uptick in reports of near collisions with airliners as well this year — a disturbing trend which is expected to continue.
At this point, infractions will be punished. If you don’t believe me, just ask SkyPan International.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed the largest civil penalty the agency has ever proposed against an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operator for endangering the safety of United States airspace. UAS are more commonly referred to as drones.
The record $1.9 million penalty has been proposed against SkyPan International, Inc. The FAA alleges that the company conducted 65 unauthorized aerial photography flights in highly congested airspace over New York City and Chicago, violating airspace regulations and various operating rules. The FAA says that these “careless and reckless” operations, which allegedly occurred between March 21, 2012 and December 15, 2014, were illegal, risky, and endangered lives and property.
When in doubt, I always refer to the FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems website. As shown here “I want to fly a UAS for business purposes…do I need approval from the FAA?,” you currently have three options:
- Special Airworthiness Certificates – Experimental Category (SAC-EC) for civil aircraft to perform research and development, crew training, and market surveys. However, carrying persons or property for compensation or hire is prohibited. For more information, please contact the Airworthiness Certification Service, AIR-113, at 202-267-1575. 1,3
- Obtain a UAS type and airworthiness certificate in the Restricted Category (14 CFR § 21.25(a)(2) and § 21.185) for a special purpose or a type certificate for production of the UAS under 14 CFR § 21.25(a)(1) or § 21.17. 7,8
- Petition for Exemption with a civil Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for civil aircraft to perform commercial operations in low-risk, controlled environments.
Don’t expose yourself to undue risk. Especially when becoming a legitimate commercial drone business doesn’t have to be difficult or (overly) expensive. At Drone Universities, you can earn free Section 333 Exemption services just by successfully enrolling in and completing three of our drone college courses.