Frequently Asked Questions
1) Is that a drone?
Yes and no. The term "drone" carries a very negative connotation due to the military application of similar technology.
I prefer the term "Unmanned Aerial System (UAS)" or (sUAS) "s" for small, or "Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)" or a "quadcopter".
2) What's the range and how high can you fly?
It really depends on what you are filming or photographing (a house for real estate or a surf contest far from shore), but where you take off from, you can go hundreds to thousands of feet away (in distance) and up to 400 feet in altitude. I like to remain within "Visual Line of Sight (VLOS)" and anything past that would be referred to as "Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS)".
3) Do you need a license to fly a drone commercially?
Yes! Under 14 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 107 for commercial drone services in the National Airspace System (NAS), anyone acting as the Remote Pilot-In-Command (PIC), of a sUAS for commercial purposes, needs a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating, or be under the direct supervision of a person who holds such a certificate.
To get a certificate one has to pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at one of 696 FAA-approved knowledge testing centers across the United States. Remote PICs will have to pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.
Prior to 08/29/16, you had a 5-7 month waiting period for a Section 333 Exemption and needed a manned aircraft pilot license.
This new Part 107 certification process is a much more streamlined step in the right direction for the FAA and the drone industry in the United States.
4) Can you check and verify the status (or lack there of) a drone pilot's license?
Yes! Just as you would want to check if a contractor, realtor, truck driver, airline pilot, or other business professional that requires a license, is still valid and up to date, the same goes for a drone pilot.
Fines for the unlicensed pilot and the person hiring the pilot are substantial.
The fine is $1,100 per occurrence/flight where imagery is used commercially.
More importantly, the fine for a real estate agent or business that contracts an unlicensed pilot is $11,000.
Of course, if you’re a real estate agent or business owner who bought a drone and took the photos or video yourself, you will be liable for BOTH fines.
You can click on the FAA link below and enter the pilot's Last name, First Name.
- If the name is fairly common you may have to enter state and or "Country".
- If your drone pilot's name doesn't show up in the database below, you may want to question them about their FAA remote pilot's license.
- If the pilot has a drone license, you'll see a document indicating that they hold a current FAA issued "Remote Pilot's" license.
Check an airmen's license standing here: https://amsrvs.registry.faa.gov/airmeninquiry/
6) Are there restrictions as to where you can or cannot fly a drone (sUAS)?
Yes! Both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have developed rules that apply to all drones (sUAS) shown and depicted on the map below.
**You CANNOT fly within 5 nm of a Major Airport, US Military Bases, US National Parks, or TRF's (Temporary Flight Restrictions) without prior ATC authorization or above 400ft.**
5) What if you are flying just for fun or hobby?
Recreational or hobby UAS use is flying for enjoyment and not for work, business purposes, or for compensation or hire.
In the FAA's Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, the FAA relied on the ordinary, dictionary definition of these terms.
UAS use for hobby is a "pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation."
UAS use for recreation is "refreshment of strength and spirits after work; a means of refreshment or division."
Even if no money is exchanged, but the drone photos / video were used "in furtherance of a business", a violation has occurred, each one being fineable.
Before you fly outside for recreation you must:
Register your UAS if it weighs more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds
Read and understand all safety guidelines
You must be:
13 years of age or older (if the owner is less than 13 years of age, a person 13 years of age or older must register the small unmanned aircraft)
A U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident*
* Visiting foreign nationals must register their UAS upon arrival in the United States (online registration serves as a certificate of ownership).
Registration costs $5 and is valid for 3 years.
For a complete list of the FAA's UAS FAQ's click here
NOAA Restrictions for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
In the Monterey Bay area region the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is protected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with restrictions that originally only applied to fixed-winged manned aircraft. At the present these restrictions also apply to quadcopters:
*Pilots are required to remain above 1000' AGL (Above Ground Level) whenever flying within any of the four designated restriction zones described below:
1) From mean high water to 3 nautical miles (nmi) offshore between a line extending from Pt. Santa Cruz on a southwesterly bearing of 220° true and a line extending from 2 nmi north of Pescadero Pt. on a southwesterly bearing of 240° true;
2) From mean high water to 3 nmi offshore between a line extending from the Carmel River mouth on a westerly bearing of 270° true and a line extending due west along latitude parallel 35°33.2928'N off of Cambria;
3) From mean high water and within a 5 nmi seaward arc from a center point of 36°48.0774' N, 121°47.4204' W (the end of the Moss Landing ocean pier as it appeared on the most current NOAA nautical charts as of January 1, 1993); and
4) Over the Sanctuary's jurisdictional waters of Elkhorn Slough east of the Highway One Bridge to Elkhorn Road.
'Click' on the map to the right of this text, to view an up-to-date interactive map of the United States which shows the various restricted airspaces, thanks to:
Basic sUAS Safety Principles:
• Do not interfere with manned aircraft operations.
• Yield the right of way to manned aircraft. See and avoid other aircraft at all times.
• Do not endanger persons or property. No intentional overflight of moving vehicles or unprotected persons.
• Fly no higher than necessary (and below 400 feet). Remain below surrounding obstacles when possible.
• Avoid operations in close proximity to airports. When within 5 miles of an airport, additional rules specific to a flying site/location apply. Contact the airport/Air Traffic Control (ATC).
• Ensure pilot compentency/proficiency and safe operations of the aircraft.
• Remain within visual line of sight (VLOS). Use a spotter when necessary/appropriate.
'Click' on the photo to the right of this text, to view up-to-date information about flying a sUAS safely, thanks to: