Rich Hanson nicely puts to bed the AIC 91-57 makes it all right attitude that pervades amongst US RCAP business.
Well done Rich!
In Europe, Australia and New Zealand there are clear rules that allow aerial photography within visual line of sight and in a few cases beyond.
People are chomping at the bit to get started in the USA, in fact many hundred have. Another CB radio situation has been created. In the 70′s radio’s became cheap and plentiful and the FCC ended up caving and allowed folks to carry on licence free. That’s probably where RCAP is in the USA.
It’s a great question and the basic answer is yes… However…
Aeromodeling enthusiasts have mounted cameras on their model aircraft for years and taken aerial photographs of the local flying site, their backyard and even themselves as they remotely operate their aircraft, and the ability to do so still exists today. However, modelers must be respectful of the privacy of others and understand that the publishing of photographs of someone or someone’s property in print, in a media such as Facebook/YouTube or even emailing the photos to family and friends could be viewed as an invasion of privacy. AMA’s current guidance in this area states:
“The use of imaging technology on radio control model aircraft with the capability of obtaining high-resolution photographs and/or video, or using any types of sensors, for the collection, retention, or dissemination of aerial surveillance data/information of individuals, homes, businesses or property, is strictly prohibited by the AMA unless expressed written prior permission is obtained from the individuals, property owners or managers.”
It would seem like it should be a simple transition from flying a model aircraft with a camera mounted on it to doing professional aerial photography… unfortunately, however, it’s not as simple as you might imagine. The taking of aerial photographs as a business endeavor or even selling your personal artistic aerial photographs is deemed to be a commercial enterprise. In 2007 the FAA published a clarification of its policy on the operation of unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes.
The crux of the issue is in the following policy statement..
“The current FAA policy for UAS operations is that no person may operate a UAS in the National Airspace System without specific authority. For UAS operating as public aircraft the authority is the COA, for UAS operating as civil aircraft the authority is special airworthiness certificates, and for model aircraft the authority is AC 91-57.”
“The FAA recognizes that people and companies other than modelers might be flying UAS with the mistaken understanding that they are legally operating under the authority of AC 91-57. AC 91-57 only applies to modelers, and thus specifically excludes its use by persons or companies for business purposes.”
The FAA is currently working on new regulation that will allow the commercial and public use of UAS in the National Airspace System in the future. But for now, in order to operate under the current regulatory structure, you have to apply for and receive either a Special Airworthiness Certificate in the experimental category if you’re are a commercial operator or a Certificate of Authorization (COA) if you’re a public entity. At the bottom of the blog is a link to a PDF copy of the notice that was published in the Federal Register in 2007. The notice explains the policy statement in more detail, and below is a link to the FAQs that specifically answer questions regarding flying UAS for commercial purposes…
You can also get additional information via the following link to the FAA Fact Sheet – Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)…
Below are links to a copy of the UAS fact sheet and a PDF copy of FAA Order 8130.34a that establishes the program for issuing special (experimental) airworthiness certificates for commercial UAS operations.
AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs