As a drone operator, I’m responsible for a lot of moving pieces to ensure that our company is following the rules put in place by the FAA. Routine maintenance, flight checklists and flying under the appropriate conditions are some of the items that we use to help us stay compliant. The FAA is starting to crackdown on both drone pilots and companies for breaking Part 107 drone laws. It’s important to understand that if you hire a drone pilot who operates illegally or does not follow commercial drone laws, BOTH the hiring entity and the drone pilot will be held liable.
If you’re a company who’s looking to engage a vendor or hire a drone operator, it is important to ask the following questions:
First of all, does the drone operator have his Part 107 drone license?
Next, is he registered to operate in your state? (In the state of North Carolina, a drone operator must pass the NC Knowledge Test for UAS operators. He or she will receive a NCDOT permit upon passing the test.)
Is the drone operator’s drones registered with the FAA?
Can you see the drone operator’s registration number in plain view on the drone?
Make sure the drone operator has insurance, especially liability insurance. (It’s not required, but an accident can happen and basic liability insurance covers both your company and the drone operator.)
Does the drone operator understand airspace/waivers/authorizations? (This is important, because a drone operator needs to be aware of restricted airspace and what you can fly over.)
The FAA has announced the punishment for drone operators and companies who hire pilots who operate illegally. Here’s the response.
Yes, you read that correctly. Drone pilots face a $1,100 per violation, while companies who don’t properly vet their pilots face a minimum of $11,000 fine.
Let’s use a company that’s looking to get pictures of real estate as an example. They hire “Bobby”, a friend of the CEO. “Bobby” does not have his license and ends up flying his drone over a home. For this example, let’s say the home is 3 miles from a major airport. The FAA will issue “Bobby” a fine of at minimum of $3,300 (no drone license, no drone registration, and operating in restricted airspace). The FAA will fine your company at minimum $11,000.
Flying a drone is a fun experience that can lead to some amazing images. Flying safely and legally needs to be part of the process. You can help play a role by encouraging current drone operators to get their license, register their aircraft and follow the laws.
Another aspect is educating companies, businesses and individuals who want to hire drone operators. You can’t claim ignorance if the FAA levies a fine against you for something that happens on your watch. Be smart and minimize the risk.