legal USA Drone Laws

I just posted this as a reply, and realized it should have it's own thread!

If you have legal pointers, loopholes, etc., please post! Here is what I have learned about my local drone laws:

In California - and especially here in Los Angeles - it's very restricted legally. As soon as you plan or attempt to earn a penny on your drone footage, you are categorized as "pro", and required to be certified and get insurance, permits and pay fees.

"Recreational" drone use is different, but you can't even use "recreationally shot" (aka permission and fee-free) footage in a future profitable/promotional video - which includes online videos with ads.

"School Lands" are the only places in Cali you can just launch your drone, film, and earn money off of it without permits, etc.: https://www.slc.ca.gov/land-types/school-lands/

(...probably your own property as well...I would assume...not sure...)

Nationwide, you need an FCC cert to shoot ANY "pro" drone footage.

I've also heard that, nationally speaking, the FCC is cracking down on videos found online. Although that issue can be avoided by simply getting the relatively cheap certification (info here: https://www.faa.gov/uas/commercial_operators/become_a_drone_pilot )

This was all learned from speaking to Film LA and California Film Commission last fall for a project.
 

mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
My nephew has his private pilot's license (ppl), and as he expands his certifications, this is one of the ones that he plans to get.

I'm not sure how easy it is for someone with no training or experience as a pilot to pass the FAA's written test. It might be more practical to connect with a young but drone-certified pilot who is looking to develop a client base.
 
The certification process is less a test of skill and more of a financial shakedown. It's one page of very easy questions, like is it ok to fly your drone into a person. and then there is a huge processing fee to grade the answers. No actual skill is required for certification. It's basically like agreeing to apples terms of service, except you have to pay hundreds of dollars to click accept.

They will harass you about it via phone though, until you send them their money. The test is just a façade to collect it though.
 
I don't know of any "loopholes", but I just recently passed the part 107 exam.

For rec flying you can just do the FAA general airman online knowledge test and register the drone on their website to be "legal" to fly. Then you should be covered if anyone approaches you to question your flying.

As long as you have all that out of the way, and your basic insurance, I really really doubt they will dive deeper into your status as Part 107 certified.

I think part 107 only truly is questioned when you are charging to behave as a drone pilot for commercial business clients, such as farm companies/real estate offices/ etc. And it would always be cleared before you arrive I assume.
 
Are we talking about starting a drone photography company, 'cause I have a nice quadcopter of my own. I have it registered with the FAA and all that jazz, but when I'm after a shot, I just go out and get it.. In and out. Quick. Guerrilla film making the time honored way.

One of my favorite slasher films, Maniac, has a scene with actor/stuntman/make-up artist Tom Savini having his head blown off through the windshield of a car. Really gruesome stuff ... anyway, the team set up the shot at night, executed the effect, then got the hell out of there. It's in the film. No permits... Nobody went to jail.

As far as I know, there is no chain of title requirement that must include licences and permits, and insurance if you happen to have some footage of ANYTHING. Maybe I'm wrong. Indie film makers are usually so far off the radar that nobody cares. Sure, get a permit, buy insurance or apply for a waiver, do it the right way,, Or just go out and get the shot.
 
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Indie film makers are usually so far off the radar that nobody cares.
True, and in different regions there are different rules. Your local govts. aren't likely to seek you out, and the FCC only will if you aren't registered and certified with them.

BUT if you want to create a proper budget (whether for investors or just to learn the process), get better jobs in the industry, join a union, and/or just have your video go viral without issue, it behooves you to do things by the book. Your fellow filmmakers on the project are watching you as well. I encourage anyone reading to aspire to being a professional and giving off that vibe when possible. Certainly guerrilla techniques are always an option, but you may want to think of those as a last resort or something to be grown out of. Just my two cents.

Of course if it's just a hobby with friends, then it's literally recreational anyway.
 
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They'll get you comin' and goin'. Death and taxes. The Fun Police win again. Tyvm for letting us know about this. Not that I would know, but I've noticed an increasing number of what must be drone shots (I would guess) in films these days. So it's very relevant.
 
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