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A Newbies Take on the Current Situation for Commercial Drones in the U.S.

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Skadar, Sep 15, 2015.

  1. Skadar

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    Like a lot of people, I am interested in becoming a licensed UAS operator for the purpose of either a) owning a small business, or b) getting hired as a drone pilot. I'm posting this to help others in my position who are wondering generally "what's going on", and to hopefully learn more myself. Please feel free to correct anything I may have gotten wrong.

    1) As far as I understand things, in order to operate commercially (accept money for flying), you currently need to hold a minimum Sport Pilot Certificate and a Section 333 Grant of Exemption for your commercial drone operation. You can apply for the Exemption as an individual or as a company. You apparently need to specify the make and model of your drone when you apply, but I'm not sure what happens if you subsequently acquire more commercial drones.

    2) Average cost to obtain your Sport Pilot Certificate ~ $5000

    3) A Section 333 Grant of Exemption is a 12-15 page legal document. You can write it and submit it yourself, or you can pay someone (generally a lawyer) to do it for you. Services online cost anywhere from $1000 to $7000. It appears that the delay from submission to approval is actually getting shorter as time marches on (Analysis of FAA 333 exemption grants, it isn't all about photography).

    4) We are in an extremely transitory period. Things may change as early as June 2016. It is quite possible that the above requirements will be eliminated in lieu of a UAS Operator Airman Certificate acquired through a written (computer-based) knowledge exam (Drone/UAS Practice Group).

    5) Even if the rules change, there's no way to know how long it will take before a person can actually go take an exam and receive a certificate. Years?

    6) Apparently people in the real world have been fined for flying commercially without meeting these requirements. I'm sure that details can be Googled.

    7) However, it's virtually guaranteed that many people/companies are flying commercially illegally simply because the ROI on a $7000 investment to become legal is completely uncertain.

    Where do I stand?


    1) Although it may seem that "everyone" is doing this, I think there is a lot of room in this industry. It will change rapidly, and that sounds like a lot of fun.

    2) I'm currently in the process of obtaining my Sport Pilot Certificate. Whether or not the rules change, I've always wanted to do this.

    3) I will not be pursuing a section 333 Exemption unless things become more clear. I'd hate to put in all the time and money only to have it nullified in 9 months.

    4) I've been flying R/C and drones (lately) for 20 years. I'm obtaining a P3P to practice exploring commercial opportunities.

    5) I have no confidence in DJI, but I feel like I'm stuck with them. I've done a ton of research, and even with all of the potential for catastrophic loss, the P3P seems like the only best option. I could build my own hex, hanging a GoPro Black on a 3-axis gimbal and hit a similar $1200 price point. But I would be stuck with a GoPro lens, and I wouldn't have access to the value added stuff that the P3P provides... indoor utility, the DJI app, built-in FPV, etc.
     
  2. Vern Shurtz

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    As for the 333 I think it is much easier then expected. Here is a link to a 4 page request that is approved. Note: The last 4 pages are the actual request. Everything in front is FAA conditions on the approval.
    https://www.faa.gov/uas/legislative...authorizations/media/Brian-Stanford-12771.pdf

    I am going to submit the 333 request and looking into a Sport Pilot Certificate with a local instructor.
     
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  3. Skadar

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    Thank you so much for this! I figured there must be valid requests out there, but I didn't know how to find one. It makes sense that the majority of petitions would essentially be copy and pastes.

    Does anyone know what happens when you acquire additional commercial drones after the first one is approved?
     
  4. Vern Shurtz

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    The FAA has a process to amend and submit for subsequent approval after the fact.
     
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