Drones taking photos

phantom 2 DJI copy

A Federal ban isn’t stopping drone photography, according to a recent news article: instead shooters are getting around the ban on commercial use by flying and taking pictures for free — and selling only the finished, edited results of those flights.

“Valley real-estate photographers are using drones to shoot aerial shots of residential properties despite a federal ban on the use of unmanned aircraft,” reports Gannett’s Republic news site. “Using lightweight radio-controlled helicopters to shoot photos and videos that show homes in context to neighbors, golf courses and other nearby landmarks, the photographers are finding ways to work around federal rules. “Technically, I can’t charge for any of the flying,” said Luke Pierzina of Aerial Raiders. “I charge for editing.”

The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that more than 7,500 small unmanned aerial vehicles will be flying in the national airspace in the next five years.

The FAA is quoted as saying an operator of radio-controlled aircraft can mount a camera on it and shoot video for his or her personal use. But if the same person flies the same aircraft and then tries to sell the video, or uses it to promote a business, or accepts payments from someone else to shoot the video, that would be a prohibited commercial operation.

Here’s the full story.



  1. [ This is not intended to be and should not be considered legal advise.]

    At this writing, the FAA has no authority to prohibit the “commercial use” of remote-controlled model aircraft (which are now being referred to as “drones.” Anyone is free to operate a drone for pleasure or profit at this writing.

    The FAA simply (and falsely) “claims” it is illegal to fly a remote-controlled model aircraft (which is what is now being referred to as a “drone.”) for “commercial purposes. It then sent out some “cease and desist” letters to folks it “claimed” were operating in violation of FAA regulations. Those cease and desists were entirely meaningless and had no force of law to back them up.

    In reality, there are no FAA regulations whatsoever concerning drone operations. None, nada, zilch. And in the absence of any such regulations, or any case law prohibiting a particular act, that act is legal. That’s simply how the law works in this country.

    Rather than post the full explanation here as to why it is legal, it would be easiest to read it on my “drone law” website at: http://dronelawjournal.com/current-drone-law/