Flying in to trouble


Drones are pretty cool. They have made creating aerial videos and images so very easy. Flying AND taking really cool pictures. How fun is that?  But there can be pitfalls if you don’t know the rules.

You own a local auto sales business, and your nephew Jimmy received a drone for his birthday. Jimmy is having fun and showing off some awesome pictures. You think that it would be great to have a photo of your lot…you can put it on your website, your Facebook page, and maybe in your printed material. The lot, full of cars…that makes for some great marketing.

As the old adage goes, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional wait until you hire an amateur,” should be the alarm going off in your head right about now.


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees vehicles that fly, and there are rules for drones (or as the FAA calls it, Small Unmanned Aircraft). You will see these rules out there being referred to as Part 107, and in order to do anything beyond recreational flying requires that the pilot be licensed and certified. And that last sentence pretty much sums it up. Fly your own drone, take pictures of your house, and hang the photo on your living room, wall – no problem. You then decide to put your house on AirBnB or for sale by owner and use that photo – that is a problem.

How big of a problem? If the images and their use get reported, (and the FAA has a very simple, easy reporting facility on their website), then the unlicensed pilot is fined $1,100 per incident. AND, if you hire an unlicensed pilot to do the commercial work then you are responsible for a fine 10 times that, $11,000 per incident!

If you are the person who took the aerial photo themselves and later used it on AirBnB, you are liable for both parts of the equation, or $12,100 per incident.

This applies to any use of a drone for anything that’s not recreational.

You work in the marketing depart of a local hospital and Paul in accounting, an unlicensed recreational pilot, just sent you an image he took of the facility, so you put it on the hospital’s Facebook page; not good. You want to use a drone to inspect property or equipment for your business, again that’s on the commercial side so you need to enlist a licensed pilot.

It doesn’t matter who you are; an individual, a business, a non-profit, or a government agency. The rules apply based on the usage of the drone and any imaging.

At Down East Photography, we are Part 107 certified and licensed and insured, along with being a Certified Professional Photographer. Projects and tasks that we can do include (but not necessarily limited to):

* The customary birds-eye photos and videos of your property. Whether that property is real estate, such as your business location or big machinery, etc.

* Property mapping. We fly directly overhead and create a high-resolution image of your property. This is really great for resorts, schools, and other businesses on a campus. A nice addition to your website or printed for handouts, but also for an interactive map.

* Inspections. Need to get a closer look and/or documentation of something that’s way up there or hard to access? Let the drone take it on. Building exteriors, towers, power lines, water boundaries, etc. are all good subjects for this.

Not sure where your drone project falls or if you’re ready to get started on an aerial project, give us a call or drop us a note. We look forward to discussing it with you.

One thing is for sure, it’ll be less expensive than being hit with the fines.

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