“What do I need to do to legally operate my drone?”

This simple question is one commercial operators have been asking in one form or another for awhile now, and so many people have gotten so many different answers to it. Many people are simply trying to figure out where things are with FAA drone regulations, and a great deal of that confusion is unavoidable in light of that fact that what operators and organizations can and want to do in the air continues to evolve.

Regardless of how laws and regulations change in the future, it makes sense to run through the basics around what everyone should be aware of if they’re flying for commercial purposes. These issues extend to operators as well as to anyone looking to hire someone to fly a drone for their project.

That said, let me stress that what’s here shouldn’t be the end of your research, but just the beginning. A couple good places to gather more insight around legalities are via Jonathan Rupprecht’s Drone Law Blog and Peter Sachs’ Drone Law Journal. No matter your resources or approach, it’s essential to gather as much info as possible in direct and indirect manners before taking to the sky.

  • Have Your Section 333

  • Work Through Insurance and Liability Issues

  • Adhere to the Requirements

  • Make Sure The Drone Has an N-Number

  • Stay Safe

It is amazing that this is still a question, but it turns out that it is more than ever. One thing conspicuous by its absence:

You need someone with a pilot’s license. This is the absolute “can’t get around it” piece that just doesn’t seem to sink in.

It will be different someday – probably with Part 107 – but right now it is the definitive don’t pass go if you want to operate a commercial drone service or offer your drone for hire.
When I was adding the links to the article, I noticed that Peter Sachs just published a post entitled Don’t bother with a 333. Wait for Part 107. Peter makes the point “Remember, the 333 grantee can be anyone (or any company). But the person who actually flies the drone must be a licensed manned aircraft pilot, and they must be current.”
Props to Jeremiah for calling out the N-Number. This is something that is never mentioned, perhaps because of the confusion around the registration process now that commercial and recreational users are commingled. “If a service provider that’s been hired doesn’t have an N-number displayed on their drone, something is very wrong. Also, unlike recreational users, commercial drones will all have their own unique N-number.”



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