Originally Posted by Saget
Sorry if this is 205, but...
It got me to thinking and searching on the web, without a whole lot of luck. It seems the FAA has no problem with hobbyists doing this sort of thing, but wants to get involved whenever money changes hands. Now I can see them wanting to regulate UAV's the size of a Cessna (or larger) operating from airports and using the same airspace as commercial flights. But an R/C toy hovering at most 100 feet off the ground in front of a house?
I can understand that there must be guidelines for safety and privacy. I get that. But I don't think requiring a commercial pilot's license to fly an R/C heli is the right answer.
Is anyone out there doing R/C aerial photography for hire? What kind of help or hindrance have you found with the FAA or local authorities? What kind of permits or insurance do you need?
The privacy issue is simple. If a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, you are not allowed to make an image, transmit, or distribute it of whatever object or activity they deem private. Meaning if some gal is sunbathing nekid in her back yard with high fences, you can't peep in with your copter. Now if same woman is on a golf course, by all means take a pic and link it.
As for the FAA, they're worried about more than your r/c aircraft running into another aircraft. If you lose control or communication with your aircraft , how will the aircraft be recovered and how will the loss of control affect the safety of people on the ground? In a nutshell, does your aircraft have an autonmous system that alllows it to land safely without causing injury or property damage? If your aircraft can pose a risk to people or property, then the FAA has a valid concern. Mostly they're looking at weight, operating altitude, and operating area. This is where liability insurance comes up and licensing can make sense. If you're flying over an unpopulated corn field no one is going to stress. On the other hand If your buzzing over the high school football game and the batteries in your transmitter go dead or your aircraft dumps an engine, then be ready to answer some questions. How they evolve to deal with all the new kids hoping to get a gov contract is anybody's guess. But there's good reasons most of the big players are out in the deserts for r&d. My opinion would be to not fly over populations without consent and liability insurance.
In my world with a real helicopter, whoever the production company is that hires us is required to add us to their production insurance usually anywhere from $10-15 million. Then there are film permits but that's another can of worms and probably won't apply to someone doing real estate or corporate video.
In a previous life pre Sept. 11, I dealt successfully with the FAA flying high altitude aerostats over populations. All you need to do is answer their "what if" questions and notify them of your intentions and you'll find they aren't so bad. I was required to gain clearance if I intended to operate within five miles of a controlled airspace. Outside five miles I just had to notify of intend operations. Basically that meant my letter to the local ATC would be either, "I would like your permission to operate in this area or, I am
operating in this area."
I can't speak for r/c planes or copters, but for our aerostat applications, anything over 150 feet is where the FAA got involved, and we typically operated at 500 to 1500 and carried about one hundred pounds of camera. Check out FARs part 101 regarding balloons, kites and rockets. It will give you an idea of where they're coming from.