I recently completed my Federal Aviation Administration Part 107 Certification for Small Unmanned Aerial System or SUAS or Drone.
There are currently over 2 million drones flying over the US. Roughly 1.5 million hobbyists and 500,000 commercial operators.
The FAA 107 Certificate is required to fly a drone for commercial purposes. To this time there are only about 4500 pilots with the 107 Certificate.
Study courses and testing for the 107 run between $250 and $1000.
The FAA also requires that all commercial drones be registered with the FAA. Pretty simple to do.
More and more customers for aerial services are requiring vendor pilots to have at least a $1 million liability insurance policy in place. All general liability insurance policies are excluding drones. Therefore, a pilot must purchase a separate liability policy just for the drone activity. This proving to be fairly pricey, about double what a general liability policy costs. Also, insurance companies are requiring 107 certifications in order to get coverage.
With all that said, my thoughts are there will be a lot of “illegal” commercial operators out there working in the air.
There is no FAA “drone police”. The only way the FAA would look into an operation is if there is an accident or complaint. So, it would be pretty hard to get caught flying illegally.
The reason I am writing this is to educate anyone who might hire a drone pilot for any commercial reason. Please be aware that if you hire an uncertified “Pilot in Command” and heaven forbid there is an accident you could be liable for any or all damages. You may get a less expensive price on your project but, I don’t feel it is worth the risk.
There are plenty of pilots out there that are certified and insured, like myself, to care of any of your aerial needs. Whether it is for photography, video or any inspection uses you should be able to find the pilots “doing it right” All you have to do is ask.
And remember, just because you own a camera doesn’t make you a photographer and just because you have a drone it doesn’t make you an aerial photographer. I have a hammer but I’m not a builder.
A solar company recently hired me to fly over a university campus and photograph their installations. The company had an engineer with a drone. The university required that insurance and certificates be held by the company flying. My solar client did not have the necessary documents so they hired me.
After the President of the company saw the images I provided. He told me that I would do all their aerial photography moving forward. He said my work was “superior” to his engineers. With that I replied “I don’t design solar installations and he shouldn’t take pictures.