So, you're looking to hire a drone.
You've got a good idea of what you want to get out of hiring someone, but you're not sure if it's possible, affordable or safe. Who should you hire? What should you ask about when hiring a drone pilot? Read on as we answer these questions.
When you set out to hire a drone pilot, it's important to keep in mind what you want to achieve. Whether it's a video of an event or photos of a real estate listing, there are certain regulations set by the FAA on what can and cannot be done, and what requires special permission. To name a few, there are restrictions on how high a drone can fly, where and when it can fly, and even weather restrictions.
"What Are The Basic Rules?"
In general, drone pilots are limited to a max altitude of 400 feet during daylight hours and must maintain line-of-sight with the drone, while avoiding flying over people. A drone pilot can request permission (apply for a waiver) to exceed these and other rules, but there are a number of factors that the FAA looks at to decide whether it will be allowed. This also applies to flying in the controlled airspace around airports.
"Are You Licensed?"
When searching for a drone pilot, it is extremely important to make sure the drone pilot is FAA-licensed. This can be either:
- Pilot under Part 61 (traditional pilot) with a "Section 333" exemption
- Remote Pilot under "Section 107" with a small unmanned aircraft system rating
It's important to understand what the difference between these two types of licenses are. If a drone pilot is flying under "Section 333" or a "waiver", that drone pilot must hold a traditional pilot's license. Having a Section 333 waiver simply isn't enough.
On the other hand, there's the "Section 107" license. Traditional pilots and drone-only pilots can both hold this type of license.
Any drone pilot that doesn't have one or the other cannot legally fly for hire and might not have a good understanding of how to fly safely.
Some say any publicity is good publicity, but your drone pilot being on the news for causing a near miss with a plane, well... probably not the publicity you want!
"Are You Insured?"
In addition to being FAA-licensed, a drone pilot should also carry drone insurance. It’s important to understand that most business general liability policies don’t cover commercial drone use. Policies that do may carry a small amount of coverage that may or may not be adequate, depending on the flying situation. For example, $25,000 of drone coverage might be OK for something like real estate photography, but it likely wouldn’t be suitable for recording a music festival. Always ask what types of insurance are carried and how much is carried!
"How are you safe?"
Once your FAA-licensed & insured drone pilot is on site, there are some safety procedures you should expect them to do. Generally, you should expect your drone pilot to:
- Go through safety checklists,
- Check for bystanders in the area,
- listen for air traffic in the area,
- constantly observe the drone or have someone to do this
It’s also important to understand that special permission is required when operating near airports. How close is “near”? That depends on the airport. In most areas on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, if you are less than 5 miles away from an airport, you'll likely need permission.
With the FAA changing the way drone pilots have to ask for permission to fly in controlled airspace, this now means a drone pilot has to make the request 90 days in advance! That’s a long time! It’s important to make sure you plan well ahead. Any FAA-licensed drone pilot will need to know the details of where you’d like to fly and may ask for flexibility on the date/time in case of bad weather, etc. Remember: this is 90 days in advance.
"How Do I Verify A Pilot?
Just ask to see the license! Whether the drone pilot is licensed as a traditional pilot with a Section 333 exemption or licensed under Section 107, the drone pilot will have a physical license to show you. If you want to verify his or her credentials online, you can go to the FAA's Airmen Inquiry page.
If the drone pilot has a section 333 exemption, you can verify that by searching for the pilot by name at regulations.gov. It may help if the pilot gives you the exemption number.
As long as your drone pilot is FAA-licensed, insured (liability and drone), has a good understanding of safety procedures and gets FAA approval when required, everything should be smooth. There's a lot to flying safely and abiding by the FAA's regulations, and it can get confusing. If you have any questions, whether you intend to use our service or not, we would love to help! We want to do our part and keep the sky as safe as we can. Give us a call at 228-565-8085 or send us a message and we'll answer your questions.