Drone Laws – Part II

So, now you’ve registered and gotten everything you need for your drone. What now? Well, it depends on what you plan on using your drone for.  Maybe it’s a gift for a child or a friend. Maybe you’d just like to use it for fun. However, as we briefly touched upon in our last post, there are requirements and restrictions placed on your drone if those actions are for commercial use.  So, what qualifies as a commercial act? What has to be done regardless of commercial or non-commercial uses? What uses would require a business to register and go through the whole process, and which uses would allow an individual to operate freely?

Non-Commercial Use

Part of the reason there are fewer restrictions on non-commercial use of drones is due to the special rule of model aircraft.  This would have the drone operate under different, less restrictive rules, and while still requiring the drone be registered with the FAA if it is within the weight range of 0.55 LBS to 55 LBS, it is generally exempted from onerous requirements.

The FAA provides examples of what could be a non-commercial use, such as the use of a drone to observe a garden to grow produce for one’s own consumption, or the use of a drone to take photographs for personal use.  From this perspective, the “model aircraft” exemption would allow any private individual the use of a drone, so long as he or she abides with basic registration requirement and general safety requirements (e.g., prohibition of drone use at a sports arena or airport).

Commercial Use

As explained in the last post, commercial uses are those for monetary gain or market purposes. The FAA provides various comparisons between the commercial versus non-commercial use. However, if in doubt, it is best to ask the question is the drone being used for a fee, or to obtain a benefit in the market place? A few good examples include filming footage with a drone for a feature film, using drones for deliveries (e.g., Amazon’s budding program), or using a drone to obtain photographs for a home listing or a property sale.  In essence, anything that is not a hobby, or with a restricted impact on personal gain (e.g., the garden example), the use is likely commercial. Though for uses of a drone that may be on the border, multiple disclaimers may be needed to avoid any confusion.

In addition, while there may be limited ways that the FAA can determine an unapproved operation has commenced, there are certain ways that businesses and individuals can report operations to the FAA through local law enforcement, with a reported sightings list posted yearly.  It is important to remember that failure to properly register a drone has a potential fine of $27,000.

If you’re still uncertain what may be a commercial use for your drone, please set up an initial consultation with a qualified attorney.  At our law firm, we assist clients with legal issues related to business, technology, and e-commerce transactions.