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Is it worth it to fly drones commercially with all these rules?

webidextrous

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The other day a friend asked me to help with a terrestrial video shoot for his website. I'm doing his site for free just to help him get things going. The nature of the shoot made me wonder if it was time to buy a drone so we could get some nice aerial views of some things. I went on BestBuy.com, found the Mavic Pro Fly More kit, and almost hit "Buy now". If this shoot turned out well, I could use the drone to start selling aerial video as a service I provide to other website clients.

Then I did some Googling around to see if there were regulations around this for commercial shoots. Looking at FAA Part 107 and the insurance risks/costs, I'm really second-guessing my urge to start offering this as a service. Especially after reading other peoples' horror stories about things that went wrong when flying their drones commercially or even as a hobby.

It just seems like there's more risk and cost to this than reward. If something goes wrong, or some cop gets up in my face, or (worse) some neighboring homeowner takes me to court for alleged privacy violations while I'm shooting a real estate gig, I'd be up a creek.

Am I overanalyzing this? Is it really as bad as I'm imagining, or do people have to put up with all kinds of crap just for wanting to enjoy this as a hobby or as a commercial venture?

(Side story: When I was doing a video shoot at a public farmers market (where people shoot video all the time), I put my video camera on a tripod and then held the tripod high as I walked through the market to get a better vantage point. Some grumpy dude started yelling, "Hey, you can't have drones in the market! Sir! Put that away!" People really are stupid.)
 
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53-63-6f-74-74

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Every situation and location differs, but in my opinion it is worth giving this a shot and obtaining your 107 certification. The Verifly app offers very reasonably priced by-the-hour liability insurance and might be worth a look. Where you are located will play a huge role in the feasibility of obtaining aerial photos or video. Take a look at the VFR sectional for your location and see what you'll be up against and what airspace you'll be likely to encounter. Allowing 90 days for an FAA waiver is not feasible for many jobs, but the FAA is starting to streamline the process. 107 flights are more restrictive in some ways but you also have a little bit more freedom in others. You're also not bound to fly under 107 if you do have the cert., so you can still fly for fun, and having the 107 cert. makes you much safer when doing so. Personally, I try to keep my hobby flights as far away from the humans as possible, which is fairly easy where I live, as is staying out of very restrictive air space, but others don't have that option. My 107 flights are for my employer, so I can't speak to the cost or quality of insurance, but others here on the forum probably can. FYI the horror stories you mention are in many cases user error, and remember that most people only post here when they have such a story. I would venture to guess that 99% of diligent UAV pilots don't have any problems at all.
 

webidextrous

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Thanks for this info. I live in a more densely populated area (Orlando, FL metro area). I was thinking it would be expensive to gain experience to fly well if every time I fly I have to purchase "insurance by the hour". So it sounds like if I'm flying strictly for fun in a relatively unpopulated area that maybe that's not as much of a consideration?

For commercial viability, 90 day waiting periods would be a big no-go unless it's a website I'm building for them and I know the aerial video requirement up front and the website project takes a minimum of 3 months so I can hurry up and tack the video in at the end.
 

webidextrous

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I've downloaded the Jacksonville VFR sectional as well as the B4UFLY app. The app says I'm within 5 miles of multiple airports/heliports/sea-plane bases and that I have to notify the airport operator and ATC every time I fly. So if I go out to my driveway with my new drone (if I buy it) to do a quick up and down test flight, I have to call six airports? Just trying to wrap my head around the complexity and logistics. Unless I'm overdoing it, this doesn't seem very feasible for really anyone.
 

beachcombing

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I've downloaded the Jacksonville VFR sectional as well as the B4UFLY app. The app says I'm within 5 miles of multiple airports/heliports/sea-plane bases and that I have to notify the airport operator and ATC every time I fly. So if I go out to my driveway with my new drone (if I buy it) to do a quick up and down test flight, I have to call six airports? Just trying to wrap my head around the complexity and logistics. Unless I'm overdoing it, this doesn't seem very feasible for really anyone.
If you are a Part 107 pilot, then you will not have to notify those airports. You will just have to follow the airspace rules and get FAA authorization for flights in Class B, C, and D controlled airspace.

But yes, if you are flying for hobby/recreation, you are supposed to contact the airport tower if you are flying within a 5 mile radius.
 

webidextrous

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It looks like authorization for B/C/D only lasts 6 months and has a 90 day processing period. So if I wanted to maintain a constant authorization, I'd have to plan to send in a new request every 3 months after the first one is authorized (to give time for the next one to be authorized).

When I contact the airports, do I basically just say "hey, I'm going to be flying my drone today", or do they typically want details like how high, how far, how long, from what center point, etc.?

Sorry, I have a lot of questions and the answers aren't always clear when I search for them. This is reminding me of when I wanted to be a private pilot but found I was medically unqualified, but that I would have been qualified as a sport pilot...if only I hadn't first applied for medical under private because now sport would also be denied. *sigh*
 

53-63-6f-74-74

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You're in a tough spot. Also, don't expect to receive a waiver just because you asked. There may be some back and forth with the FAA and even then you may still be denied. You probably won't get a waiver for any class B airspace. Be prepared for the DJI built-in airspace restrictions that are highly inaccurate and in some cases will keep you from even lifting off (see attached map). As far as notifying airports for hobby flights, their questions will differ, but is possible to have an 'understanding' with them so that you do not have to call repeatedly (they really don't want to bothered with this stuff on a constant basis). You don't need airport permission, but if they do say no and you fly anyway then you may be considered to be flying in an unsafe manner and endangering airspace.
 

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beachcombing

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It looks like authorization for B/C/D only lasts 6 months and has a 90 day processing period. So if I wanted to maintain a constant authorization, I'd have to plan to send in a new request every 3 months after the first one is authorized (to give time for the next one to be authorized).

When I contact the airports, do I basically just say "hey, I'm going to be flying my drone today", or do they typically want details like how high, how far, how long, from what center point, etc.?

Sorry, I have a lot of questions and the answers aren't always clear when I search for them. This is reminding me of when I wanted to be a private pilot but found I was medically unqualified, but that I would have been qualified as a sport pilot...if only I hadn't first applied for medical under private because now sport would also be denied. *sigh*
If you are Part 107 certified (or going to be), check to see if the LAANC system is enabled in your area.
FAA Facilities participating in LAANC

This link will explain what LAANC is and how it works to get airspace authorizations.
FAA UAS Data Exchange

If you are only going to fly for hobby/recreation, then yes you have to call every time. You just need to tell them where and when you are going to fly. For Class B airspace, you need permission from the tower to fly.
 

webidextrous

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If you are Part 107 certified (or going to be), check to see if the LAANC system is enabled in your area.
FAA Facilities participating in LAANC

This link will explain what LAANC is and how it works to get airspace authorizations.
FAA UAS Data Exchange

If you are only going to fly for hobby/recreation, then yes you have to call every time. You just need to tell them where and when you are going to fly. For Class B airspace, you need permission from the tower to fly.
It appears that LAANC just went online here in Florida, so I'll look into that. Thanks for the info.
 

webidextrous

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You're in a tough spot. Also, don't expect to receive a waiver just because you asked. There may be some back and forth with the FAA and even then you may still be denied. You probably won't get a waiver for any class B airspace. Be prepared for the DJI built-in airspace restrictions that are highly inaccurate and in some cases will keep you from even lifting off (see attached map). As far as notifying airports for hobby flights, their questions will differ, but is possible to have an 'understanding' with them so that you do not have to call repeatedly (they really don't want to bothered with this stuff on a constant basis). You don't need airport permission, but if they do say no and you fly anyway then you may be considered to be flying in an unsafe manner and endangering airspace.
Thanks. I'm more to the west in a suburb of Orlando, so I'm probably in the clear there. But it is still Class B airspace all the way out to near Clermont, so I might still get the built-in restriction. I guess the only way to know for sure is to buy the drone and try to fly it and if it restricts me, return it for a refund.