What it Means to be UAS “For Hire”

Many people have asked me, “Amy, my neighbors are cooking dinner for me in exchange for taking photos of their home for free, but I do not have my Part 107 yet.  Can I do that without getting in trouble.  ”The simple answer is “No”.  The social media group answer is, “Sure, who cares.”, but what is the correct answer?

One of the tricky things about regulations is the interpretation of them. Even the best aviators and UAS operators take pause to evaluate the rules. And, while we may seem short on regulators, you have to ask yourself, if I’m caught not following the rules what is the cost?

Last time I checked, it’s not cheap to buy a drone; the training, the certifications, the equipment, the insurance, the software, the networking memberships, the, the, the… There are many factors to running and sustaining a drone business.  My question is, why would anyone spend so much time and money to do something wrong?  Moreover, have a careless attitude?

Let’s run the “Will fly for food!” scenario three different ways.

Gifting an Image

If you happen to be out in the neighborhood, and you snap an image of your neighbor’s house and share it with them, and then they frame it, that is not considered a Part 107 commercial service. There was no compensation. No intent. Not dinner, not drinks, nor a payment.

Dinner is Compensation

If your neighbors ask that you take a pretty picture of their home or property to frame and hang in their foyer in exchange for dinner, then you are being compensated and must have a Part 107 certification.

Commercial Photo Ops

If your neighbor wants you to take pretty pictures of their home, land or roof and then they use them to sell that home or land, or for inspection, then, no, you cannot fly for food without a Part 107 certification. It’s considered compensation and you have officially entered into a Part 107 for-hire proposition because your neighbor is using your images or video for capital gain or exposure which makes you liable to the rules of commercial remote pilot operations.

Do you see the difference? There are some serious grey lines there and many will say, “Amy, this is ridiculous.” But, ask Mical Caterina about the levy for $55,000 in fines because he flew for free and posted to YouTube.  And, there have been more fines since, and while most of those are for hefty infractions, if you don’t see the difference, it may be time to dig into understanding the interpretation of the regulations and come to a better understanding as to why all drone flyers are asked to follow the rules.

Since you’re investing money and time into this not-so-simple industry, be warned according to Know Before You Fly,  “Anyone flying in a careless and reckless manner could face civil and criminal penalties, as well as jail time. The FAA could fine you up to $27,500 for civil penalties and/or up-to $250,000 for criminal penalties.”  And do note, not following the rules is interpreted as “careless and reckless.”

The main manner for regulating illegal drone flights is big-brother himself  – social media. What you post in groups and even on your seemingly private channels may be discovered.

So, can you fly in exchange for food without a Part 107?  No.  And, my question to you is why would you?  It devalues the industry, it takes revenue opportunities away from the neighbor who is feeding their kids through their UAS business, and maybe most importantly, your time & skills are more valuable than a burger on the grill.


Do you have any questions for Amy? We welcome her to assist in breaking down industry information, and we are pleased to have her back regularly in an  “Ask Amy” blog series. Submit your questions to Amy here: hello@womenanddrones.com

Amy is the Marketing & Communications Director for DroneUp, an aerial data collection service provider, headquartered in Virginia Beach, VA. Amy is the first woman in her region awarded for the development of an FAA sUAS Part 107 training program which assisted in efforts for the military and local and state emergency management.

“Expert Insight” is the independent views and opinions of the submitting named author of this article.

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