It was fun to see the article "Eye in the Sky" on a recent front page. As a professional aerial photographer, I have been watching the development of these devices for several years, eagerly anticipating the time when they might be of use in my business. They can capture unique views that in many cases cannot be duplicated with either aircraft or helicopter.
Unfortunately, while the equipment has matured to a useful level, the regulatory environment (read: FAA) has not. Any one considering the use of this technology needs to be aware that using a "drone" to capture and sell images is absolutely, 100 percent illegal. The owner/operator is subject to a fine of up to $10,000 by the FAA — per offense.
There is also the matter of liability. Should personal or property damage occur in the course of a commercial operation, the most likely legal target for monetary damages would be the "deepest pockets" — not the operators, but most likely the company that hired them. And while insurance is available for private use, it becomes null and void if an accident occurs during the commission of an illegal act — such as shooting for compensation.
I very much look forward to being able to employ these new unmanned aerial vehicles and their capabilities in my business. Until it becomes legal, however, I will stick with my FAA certified, insured aircraft and helicopter, and my FAA certified safety pilots.
Lakes Region Aerial Photo