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Selling Drone Photos

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#1
Hi guys,

Had a Mavic Air for a few months and started getting some awesome shots, and some decent feedback on Instagram in particular.

In the last couple of days I've had some local businesses in areas I've photographed recently enquire about buying photos.

This is totally unexpected, but rather nice.

But I have no idea at all how to price them/what to do. As I'm not a professional, have no licenses etc, am I even allowed to sell them?

I'm based in the UK if that helps.

Any guidance would be tremendous. Some of the pics are here if you're interested.

*edit, have done some reading up. Looks like the CAA PfCO license is needed for proper pro drone use.

Lot of people mention charging for the editing/similar rather than the photos themselves, and seems there's no precedent in court yet set for something like this? Also unclear if non-monetary payment ie vouchers, exchange of services is a workable alternative?
 
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Simmo

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#2
In Australia, you cannot make commercial gain in any way without notification to CASA. (The Aviation safety regulator)
This photo, used by a National real estate company, I charged about $500 plus (your VAT).
Working imageRay White 1.jpg
 
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Congoblue

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#3
In the UK you would need to be licensed as a professional, I have a friend who has done this and the actual drone skills course / test was no problem (though quite expensive), but the amount of paperwork he has to generate is unreal.

The law is pretty clear on what would class as professional use - although there haven't been any drone prosecutions, there's plenty of precedent in other fields of people trying dodges such as you list above, and there's no way you'd get away with that if you became the first legal case.
 

Thwyllo

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#4
My advice would be to just ring the CAA and ask for their advice.

Regarding unsolicited approaches, I suspect you'd be ok selling to them because the regulations clearly talk about work being "advertised or offered" and if that's not been your intent (publishing stuff on Instagram doesn't constitute an offer in law) then you're ok. The rules are somewhat confusing in terms of what's required and when, hence the advice to talk to them.
 

Congoblue

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#5
CAA website says "As soon as your drone is being used commercially, you're being paid for your work, or your getting some other kind of reward, you need a CAA Drone License or PfCO in order to fly legally."

I do not think it is anything to do with advertising for work, it's all about reward for work.
 
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#6
You could volunteer to picture what they wanted you to picture, but then put the picture on shutterstock etc. Then send them the link to the images. By doing this they are buying pictures and not hiring you to fly a drone. Just a suggestion
 

RoboticTundra

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#7
Make sure you understand privacy and copyright laws and how they differ for personal and commercial use. The UK has some interesting privacy rules that you may not want to violate.
 

Simmo

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#9
You could volunteer to picture what they wanted you to picture, but then put the picture on shutterstock etc. Then send them the link to the images. By doing this they are buying pictures and not hiring you to fly a drone. Just a suggestion
Nup not going to work matey!! Good try, but commercial gain.
Fellas tried it over here, no fee for the flying, but $xx for the editing.... That got shut down real quick!
 

Thwyllo

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#10
Nup not going to work matey!! Good try, but commercial gain.
Fellas tried it over here, no fee for the flying, but $xx for the editing.... That got shut down real quick!
I find it hard to believe that people from the CAA or the Australian equivalent would be spending their days surfing sites like Shutterstock to find drone photos which they then somehow track back to the copyright holder. More actual details would be interesting.

If it were me I'd just say the photos were taken from an RC aircraft with a gimbal mounted GoPro. Or that a "bloke I met down the pub" took the photos for me on his drone and sold them to me. The law may be an *** at times but you have to be definitively proven guilty in such cases and establishing absolute guilt is going to be difficult until there's an offence that make "handling drone photos" illegal. It would need an unregistered drone of course but then you sold it a week after you bought it didn't you. To a bloke down the pub...
 

gnirtS

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#11
But I have no idea at all how to price them/what to do. As I'm not a professional, have no licenses etc, am I even allowed to sell them?
No you're not. Thats commercial work which in the UK requires a PfCO certification from a CAA approved course.

See here for details:-

Permissions and exemptions for commercial work involving small drones | UK Civil Aviation Authority

FWIW you're going to be looking at a total outlay of £2000 or so ($2750) for the PfCO and initial insurance

Lot of people mention charging for the editing/similar rather than the photos themselves, and seems there's no precedent in court yet set for something like this? Also unclear if non-monetary payment ie vouchers, exchange of services is a workable alternative?
Actually the law is very clear and has been tested in court countless times over many years. Any "payment in kind" so whether thats cash, meals, beer, vouchers, foreign holidays is commercial therefore requires a PfCO. ANYTHING which sees you get any financial or other gain over the costs involved obtaining the images is commercial. It doesn't have to be money.
"Charging for editing not flying" will not last 10 seconds in court.
It's likely you'll face additional charges potentially related to fraud or similar on top of the CAA ones. If the drone is in the sky with the intention of reward or any services are offered for reward based on it you need a PfCO.



Editing someone elses drone photos is fine but if you're flying a drone with the intention of making money from the results you're going to need one.

HOWEVER, the only slight caveat is if someone offers you a one off payment for something you took previously with no intention of selling it you MIGHT get away with it as a one off. However any marketing, gallery or advertising of services definitely breaks it.
 

gnirtS

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#12
I find it hard to believe that people from the CAA or the Australian equivalent would be spending their days surfing sites like Shutterstock to find drone photos which they then somehow track back to the copyright holder. More actual details would be interesting.
They aren't going to get far on microstock as long as the person isn't too big. The CAA and BTP have gone after youtubers and others for violations of the ANO in their videos though. Ultimately with microstock you get a username and no more details from the company. Without any legal suspicion and warrants data protection kicks in and the company can't give details of the contributor so its more effort than its worth. They cant just do a fishing exercise on media they dont know if is licensed or not. That said, if footage shows a clear offence being committed they could do that like they've done with youtube users but for just having images that look to be taken in compliance its not worth it.

One other change though, more and more stock sites are in the process of launching their "certified drone user" programme where they'll have an audited collection or a tick box in the search that'll only display media from people who have shown a proof of commercial certification to them. Pond5 for example is in the process of doing this and sent the initial emails out a month or so ago.
There are some aerial stock specialist sites that'll only accept from certified commercial operators.
 
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#13
Cool thanks for replies.

Interesting area. Might look into getting the PfCO certificate in the winter, looks like a few days work a year can make up for the costs of it.

For now, as there's no advertising, gallery or suggestion i'm trying to sell anything to anyone I'm guessing the caa won't be particularly concerned.
 

Thwyllo

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#14
I'd still want to see factual evidence on this stuff, even about YouTube. They have the same data protection issues as everyone else so I'm not clear how users can be tracked down, especially when you don't register any personal information with YouTube.

And of course the ultimate defence is just to mark any YouTube footage as "not my video". In order to have any sort of legal case at all you'd either have to admit to having illegally made the footage yourself, or be caught doing it, a record made somewhere, and then cross checked later against YouTube.

This stuff is just like when Kodi was at its height - umpteen second hand stories about prosecutions, fines etc and never any actual facts to support what turned out to be complete nonsense. Even today it's only box distributors and people on-selling subscription services that are finally being chased.

Sadly I only deal in facts and until I see some I'll reserve judgement.
 

Congoblue

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#15
I do know definite cases of car and bike drivers who have been prosecuted after posting videos of dangerous driving on youtube. So the police have definitely tracked them down in that case, and it's potentially possible they could do the same with drone infringements, though seems unlikely.

Anyway, the important point is that it's illegal to sell your drone photos / video unless you have PfCO and the flight paperwork to back it up. Whether you would ever get caught doing it is another question and was not what the original post asked.
 

gnirtS

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#16
Heres one briefly found on google as im on my phone so cant do a lot now:-
Cops investigate possible criminal drone footage of Britannia Bridge
Police investigating after Instagram. Its quite easy to track - if they have evidence of a crime and a warrant to match google/facebook etc can fairly easily dilvulge the user profile details, IP addresses and then lead to identify the user.
Don't forget the UK has some of the most invasive surveillance powers in the developed world after RIPE etc.

Drone pilot put rail network at risk was allegedly via a reported facebook post. Related to this, he was also selling images in a local shop so related to this post.

UNSAFE DRONE PILOT CASE MOVES TO COURT ROOM | Drone Safe Register - UK's Largest Network of CAA Approved Drone Operators For Hire another investigated and identified due to "footage on the internet"

This was after video footage was uploaded to the internet showing a drone flying close to airfields and congested areas. Police also seized two drones along with mobile phone and digital storage equipment.

Charges that will be considered in court include endangering persons or property, failure to maintain visual contact with an unmanned aircraft and flying within 150 metres of a congested area.
Another one:-

UK's first drone conviction will bankrupt me, says Cumbrian man

Complete with his comically BS excuses for how it happened. His youtube channel got him convicted.

So yes, police can and do investigate and track people down via the internet. Its not hard, after the now RIP act even random bodies like the council and environmental health can easily access all the details needed yet alone the police. Facebook and google have an automated portal for authorities to use and produces user details, IP addresses and so on in pretty much real time.


It's worth remembering the atmosphere in the UK is quite bitter. Those that paid thousands of pounds for a PfCO are getting annoyed by people selling footage without one and groups like the Drone Safe Register (which actually has nothing to do with safety) are actively looking for evidence and reporting people to the authorities.

Ultimately the utterly ridiculous fee for a PfCO is whats causing most of this - making it simple uneconomical and impractical for most people to bother getting unless its a full time job.
Compare the bargain price of a FAA Part 107 for example - its 90% cheaper for the same thing!

Heres another one:-
Man fined for flying drone at football matches and Buckingham Palace
£1800 fine. Caught via youtube.


...and another one:-

Man fined over airspace drone flying

Police said the offences took place over the course of four drone flights between December 2016 and January 2017.

Officers started investigating after a report of a YouTube video showing drone flights across South Warwickshire.

Warwickshire Police said Smith flew his drone over a mile away from himself where he could not see it.

He also flew it through fog and above the cloud base, as well as within the restricted airspace of Wellesbourne Airfield.
So actually yes, there are no shortage of examples of them going after people based on social media postings.
 
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Mossiback

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#17
...But I have no idea at all how to price them/what to do. As I'm not a professional, have no licenses etc, am I even allowed to sell them?...
Just meet in a dark parking garage to exchange payment for pictures and don't boast about taking the pictures.

But to be serious, judging by the responses you need to be licensed in the UK as in the USA. You also should be insured. As far as pricing is concerned you can look up what others are charging and charge accordingly. As for being fined for not being licensed, most of those stories are about idiots that post their illegal activity. It would be more likely that a licensed competitor would report you once they figure out who is "stealing" their business.
 

gnirtS

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#18
It would be more likely that a licensed competitor would report you once they figure out who is "stealing" their business.
Thats pretty much what "drone safe register" are. They're not about safety, they charge a membership for licence holders to rent out their services and actively report others without them because its competition. There are other bodies that do the same.
A little read about professional/PfCO drone forum groups and the general attitude is angry. They try to report people all the time. And there are a lot of them around,

I can see both sides to it - they've paid a fortune for a licence so having people doing the same without one is annoying. But on the other hand the $2500+ fee thats being charged for PfCOs is absolutely ridiculous and discourges people from trying to be legal.
 
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#19
Most of the cases above are people flying in stupid/illegal areas and posting it on social, which is a dumb thing to do.

But all relevant.
 

Thwyllo

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#20
Most of the cases above are people flying in stupid/illegal areas and posting it on social, which is a dumb thing to do.

But all relevant.
And in most cases, when you look into the detail, weren't found just by some scrote trawling YouTube. They were arrested in the act of, or were reported by people who knew them.

Personally I think the charges are ludicrously excessive and a$$wipes like the Drone Safety Register just want euthenising. It's not as easy as people are claiming to get personal information from YouTube - and it's even easier to dodge them. Just post everything using a VPN and false credentials. And sell from an Estonian business account. Thanks to the slimy Rees-Moggs of this world they soon won't be able to touch you.