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Aerial Photography Rules - What's really allowed?

Defog

Junior Member
#1
Before I found Flite Test, I bought a multirotor, and then a camera and FPV gear. My intent from the start was to start a hobby business of Aerial Photography. I see it as a possible easy way to stay connected with the hobby, and earn income when I retire.

I am a Scouter. A Scouter is an Adult who supports Boy Scouting in many roles. I believe in following rules. By this I mean I took the time to find out where I could fly, I joined the AMA, I found an online VFR map site that I visit to help me stay away from airports.

I just watched the episode about the Inspire 1, and was really paying attention to the things Eric was saying. And this is what prompted this post.

I would like to learn more about what I can, and cannot do regarding aerial photography. As I mentioned before, I'm about proactively finding the rules first, and following them. [I know to not fly over un-aware crowds, near airports, don't intrude on full scale aircraft.] I'm not asking about Those Rules, I'm asking, what can I do to actually start the revenue part of my business? Eric was talking about some of the Aerial Photography [AP] he's done. I'd like to know how I can do the same, and not worry that a demand letter with a huge fine from the FAA will show up at my doorstep. I want to state that I'm asking from This perspective, and not the AMA rules. I have studied them, and follow them. I also use what my Dad taught me 45 years ago about asking a farmer if you can hunt on their property, etc.

I wasn't sure where to post this, so help in that area will be great. Also, I'd like to email Eric, but not sure how to do that.

As requested in the Inspire 1 video by Josh, I want to let FT know that I'd like to see an episode on how to do do AP in such a way that the FAA stays off our backs.

To the Forum members at large, thank you for the posts and ideas. I appreciate what you do.

Brian
 

Ace2317

Senior Member
#2
I would like to second your request. I would really like to be familiar with all the ins-and-outs of all this. I love aerial photography and videography.
 

FAI-F1D

Free Flight Indoorist
#3
If you're looking to follow all the little rules, then you can't generate revenue. The FAA says it's illegal to conduct commercial UAV operations without a waiver (those currently have less than a 1% approval rate).

So let's be clear, since FliteTest makes videos using model airplanes and then gains revenue from them, that's illegal too.

There are quite a few folks doing this type of thing and the FAA has neither the resources nor the time to actually go and look up what's going on out there. The enforcement letters get issued to the big guys or folks who in some way are visible to the public at large.

One possibility you might explore is contacting the folks at Drones of Prey and see about who you might get hooked up with who does have a waiver if you're really concerned about the FAA.

Obviously I'm coming at this from a perspective of not feeling constrained to the FAA rules. I take this view based on a lifetime of exposure to FAA policies and techniques which leaves me convinced that the FAA's interests are in control and cronyism rather than safety and morality. I am repulsed by an organization which believes it has the right to make a morally sound source of employment illegal and which has written rules which essentially make all aircraft unairworthy and therefore illegal so that it can attack at any time any entity that it dislikes. And no, I'm not kidding about that last part--as a flight instructor I've talked with a lot of FAA inspectors, and that really is how it works.
 

CrashRecovery

I'm a care bear...Really?
Mentor
#4
technically any fpv is illegal, even with a spotter. Getting paid in any form for flying your plane is illegal. Now if you are not selling your video and you are flying line of sight within the rules the FAA wants us to follow then its fine. As soon as the goggles/screen is used by the pilot it becomes an illegal flight. I look at it like this...... If you're not an idiot about how you fly and what you do, the chances of you being reported are slim. Checking with landowners is great. I have a few places I would like to fly at but not sure who owns the property.
My recommendation to you is this. Fly and practice los. IF you decide to use your FPV gear have a few people around you for the simple fact you will be sure to have someone sneak up on you and want to ask questions and that gets distracting. If you are looking to start a business and want to build up a client base, you could always donate the video or post it on youtube for them to view and use. When you fly for them remind them that this is just a test flights to see how you can interact with them and that eventually there will be a service charge of sorts once the FAA takes their head out of their butt and realizes that what rules they want to impose will do nothing but drive business away from the us. Back to your question and my answer....... Just be smart about it.
 

RAM

Posted a thousand or more times
#5
For scouting it's pretty simple.

An important consideration for YouTube or any similar site that features videos and/or images of Scouts is that all videos/images should adhere to recommended Youth Protection policies and should protect the privacy of individual Scouts. Additionally, all videos should show Scouts and leaders following designated appropriate guidelines and wearing proper attire for whatever activity is being undertaken in the video. All safety and Youth Protection policies must be followed for any Scouting activities, including those being captured on video.
This might be a good video for you to watch. Even though you are doing it as a hobby, you state that you might wish to earn an income from it.
 
#6
Sorry to add to the confusion, but as I understand it technically it isn't illegal as there are no laws or legally binding polices against it. The FAA's cease and desist letters are not binding and are illegal. Basically the whole thing is a murky legal mess, in which I highly doubt anyone really knows what is going on...

All that said, make your own decision but be prepared to deal with any potential consequences.

Also, Thanks for being a Scouter! means a lot to the boys in the troop. (Eagle scout myself)
 

Tritium

Amateur Extra Class K5TWM
#7
Laws or not. The FAA can drag you into court and cause MAJOR financial distress for you and your family whether you win or loose in court.

The only one's being hurt by all of the FAA's bull are the ones who "want" to do what is right. The rest just go ahead and do what they like. This is allowing "many" businesses to move forward while other potential start ups are waiting for rulings. Guess who the industry leaders will be when it is all decided? Yep, Those who did not care whether it was legal or not and just went ahead and moved forward. It is all a big "POLITICAL" game. :mad:

Thurmond
 

makattack

Winter is coming
Moderator
Mentor
#9
Speaking of courts, looks like the FAA settled with Trappy on his famous case:

http://fpvlab.com/forums/showthread.php?37051-Pirker-vs.-FAA-finally-over!-Settled-for-1-100

Pirker vs. FAA - finally over! Settled for $1,100
There is no news like good news! In the Pirker vs. FAA case there was a favorable settlement, involving a payment of $1,100 USD. It does not constitute an admission of any of the allegations in the case or an admission of any regulatory violation!

This was an epic and historic battle and it has brought the struggle from drone operators to the forefront of the discussion. Putting old feuds to an end gives us more energy to produce more drones and videos! Let's celebrate!!
The other wrinkle about flying FPV is that above a certain power level on your video transmitter, you may also minimally need a HAM / Amateur radio license.
 
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#11
If you're looking to follow all the little rules, then you can't generate revenue. The FAA says it's illegal to conduct commercial UAV operations without a waiver (those currently have less than a 1% approval rate).

So let's be clear, since FliteTest makes videos using model airplanes and then gains revenue from them, that's illegal too.

There are quite a few folks doing this type of thing and the FAA has neither the resources nor the time to actually go and look up what's going on out there. The enforcement letters get issued to the big guys or folks who in some way are visible to the public at large.

One possibility you might explore is contacting the folks at Drones of Prey and see about who you might get hooked up with who does have a waiver if you're really concerned about the FAA.

Obviously I'm coming at this from a perspective of not feeling constrained to the FAA rules. I take this view based on a lifetime of exposure to FAA policies and techniques which leaves me convinced that the FAA's interests are in control and cronyism rather than safety and morality. I am repulsed by an organization which believes it has the right to make a morally sound source of employment illegal and which has written rules which essentially make all aircraft unairworthy and therefore illegal so that it can attack at any time any entity that it dislikes. And no, I'm not kidding about that last part--as a flight instructor I've talked with a lot of FAA inspectors, and that really is how it works.
which is why if your outside the Us you can. It all depends on were your located Mexico has very little rules so jump the border if your close and film away.
 

FAI-F1D

Free Flight Indoorist
#12
which is why if your outside the Us you can. It all depends on were your located Mexico has very little rules so jump the border if your close and film away.
Honestly I'm not that interested in filming. I work for an aviation think tank. My main concern professionally is that the FAA "rules" limit what type of work I'm allowed to contract on (we're on public view to the FAA here so we have to behave). My personal concern is that the FAA says that there's something morally wrong with making money off toy airplanes, and I find that to be a morally reprehensible position.
 
#13
The other wrinkle about flying FPV is that above a certain power level on your video transmitter, you may also minimally need a HAM / Amateur radio license.
Another wrinkle to consider, this time with the FCC. Under FCC regulations, amateur operators are not permitted to use the ham bands for any business use. So, if you are using high enough power to require an amateur radio license, you could end up running afoul of the FCC -- even if this is eventually approved by the FAA. Next, we'll see commercial radio licenses required for this operation -- with requirements that you operate on frequencies allocated for business use (which would negate the use of much of the available FPV equipment).

Of course, I'm not familiar with the frequency allocations of 2.4 and 5.8 GHz, so there might be some overlap between ham and commercial bands... this will take a bit of digging to assess this.
 
#14
Of course, I'm not familiar with the frequency allocations of 2.4 and 5.8 GHz, so there might be some overlap between ham and commercial bands... this will take a bit of digging to assess this.
Much of the legality has been discussed here: http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2251891

In practicality, most Ham's will use other bands more heavily and are very accustomed to working around interference. 2.4ghz & 5.8ghz are known for being incredibly noisy bands. This doesn't make FPV's use of the bands "more" legal.

For anyone interested in the actual frequencies, yes there appears to be some significant overlap. I'm comparing ARRL's band plan listing (Ham's have 5650.0-5925.0 MHz), and ImmersionRC's 5.8ghz duo receiver which can listen to four different bands (which cover Fatshark, Boscam, Team Black Sheep, DJI, etc spanning 5705-5945 MHz). It appears that for FPV video, exactly one channel of exactly one FPV brand is outside of the Ham's range. ImmersionRC lists it as "band 2, 5945mhz". That channel, according to the frequency allocation chart linked below, is earth to satellite communications.

http://www.arrl.org/band-plan
http://www.immersionrc.com/fpv-products/duo5800-5-8ghz-av-rx/
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikiped...locations_Chart_2011_-_The_Radio_Spectrum.pdf
 

Defog

Junior Member
#15
Thank you for all the responses. I appreciate them All. I agree, as long as I'm safe, it should not matter. It's just that caution Mom used to give about being careful when fighting City Hall, or the FAA. Mom was really smart!

Thanks again to a wonderful forum. A great group we have.
 

sps3172

Junior Member
#16
Thank you for all the responses. I appreciate them All. I agree, as long as I'm safe, it should not matter. It's just that caution Mom used to give about being careful when fighting City Hall, or the FAA. Mom was really smart!

Thanks again to a wonderful forum. A great group we have.
Do you plan on getting insurance for your business? If you do, I'd love to hear of any success you have. Granted it was a few years ago when I tried (I can't image it's any easier now), but, I couldn't get anyone to insure what they considered to be a 'aviation based' company without a FAA stamp of some sort.

I didn't just call a few places, I worked with several independent agents and none could find a workaround for me. I realize there's a whole world of people out there making money with RC based aerial imaging....in the USA no less. I can seem them ignoring the FAA.....but I can't imagine all these folks are conducting business with no insurance coverage.

What am I missing?
 

BigAl07

Junior Member
#17
Do you plan on getting insurance for your business? If you do, I'd love to hear of any success you have. Granted it was a few years ago when I tried (I can't image it's any easier now), but, I couldn't get anyone to insure what they considered to be a 'aviation based' company without a FAA stamp of some sort.

I didn't just call a few places, I worked with several independent agents and none could find a workaround for me. I realize there's a whole world of people out there making money with RC based aerial imaging....in the USA no less. I can seem them ignoring the FAA.....but I can't imagine all these folks are conducting business with no insurance coverage.

What am I missing?
If you're still looking for "Aviation Insurance" it's out there now and fairly affordable (depending on what you're insuring etc). I've contacted both of the companies below but have not actually gotten any insurance from them as of yet. So research and go forward at your own risk:
http://www.transportrisk.com/uavrcfilm.html
http://skyward.io/

I contacted my local insurance company (the one I have EVERYTHING else with) and they wouldn't even consider insuring my equipment. They honestly kind of "snubbed their noses" at the mere idea of "insuring flying AP equipment". That's when I started looking outside my local area.