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Hiring Unlicensed Drone Services Pilots Can Result In Penalties

FAA Fining Realtors® $11,000 and others who hire unlicensed drone service pilots for commercial drone use.

According to home sale statistics, homes with aerial images sold 68% faster than homes with standard images. Video tours that incorporate drone footage are a great way to make

properties stand out and to attract new listings. According to the National Association of REALTORS, 73% of property owners say that they are more likely to list with a real estate agent who uses video to market their home; however, only 9 percent of agents create listing videos.

Of course with statistics like this we can understand the need for drones service companies in the business word. The competitive nature of the business world drives prices down and sometimes creates a race to the bottom. For this reason the FAA was tasked to create a standard drone pilot credential that maintains a safe and responsible industry.

Even with these FAA laws, some business operators still look to cut costs by hiring non licensed drone pilots. While this looks tempting to do, lets take a look at the consequences.

Hiring Unlicensed Drone Services ‘Pilots’ Can Result In Penalties
Hiring Unlicensed Drone Services ‘Pilots’ Can Result In Penalties

What qualifies as commercial drone use?

FAA Fining Realtors® $11,000 and others who hire unlicensed drone service pilots
FAA Fining Realtors® $11,000 and others who hire unlicensed drone service pilots

All drone service operations that result in direct compensation or used to advance any business will be considered commercial use and will require a part 107 drone license. These activities are pretty easy to identify – getting paid to take photos of a listing property or to survey a construction site are unquestionably examples of commercial drone use.

What Happens if You Fly a Drone Without a License?

According to the FAA, for a pilot who is unlicensed, the fine is $1,100 per occurrence/flight where imagery is used commercially. More importantly perhaps, the fine for the the real estate agent who hires an unlicensed pilot is $11,000. The following are some actionable examples;


Here's a snapshot of the current state of drones industry in the United States:

  • 855,860 drones registered

  • 316,075 commercial drones registered

  • 536,183 recreational drones registered

  • 3,602 paper registrations

  • 277,845 Remote pilots certified

  • 255,476 TRUST completion certificates issued by test administrators


Protect Yourself- When Choosing Drone Service Companies Ask For:

  • Ask to see the drone companies FAA Remote Part 107 Pilot Certificate (drone license)

  • Ask the drone company for a Certificate of Insurance (COI).

  • Ask the drone company whether he/she will require any Part 107 Waiver(s) to complete the job. These waivers include flights in controlled airspace, nighttime operations, operations over people, and several other restrictions. Some waivers can still take up to 90+ days to get approved so it is important to plan ahead of time.

  • Ask the drone company about their safety and experience. How long have they been in business? Have they ever had an incident on a job? Do they have backup equipment if there is a failure? Do they fly with a Visual Observer?

“Anonymous” complaints are the number 1 way people get identified to the FAA. If you’re shooting your own drone photography, or using unlicensed pilots, you’re likely posting these images and videos over the web. It doesn’t take long for a competitor to drop a dime and get the word out. The Ultimate Guide To Hiring a Drone Company:

Benefits of Hiring a Drone Service Company With a FAA Licensed Pilot
Benefits of Hiring a Drone Service Company With a FAA Licensed Pilot

Benefits of Hiring a Drone Service Company With a FAA Licensed Pilot

  1. IT’S ILLEGAL TO FLY A COMMERCIAL DRONE WITHOUT A LICENSE- You’ll have the peace of mind knowing the licensed drone pilot in command is the final authority to the safe outcome of a commercial UAS operation.

  2. PROTECTION FROM THE LIABILTY- Civil fines can reach $27,000 while criminal fines as much as $250,000

  3. MISHAPS MEAN BIGGER TROUBLE- If something goes wrong the fines, penalties and legal costs are limitless.

  4. INSURANCE- It most every case look at unlicensed pilots did not carry liability insurance. Drone insurance protects the pilot, more importantly it protects the client.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licenses commercial drone pilots for unmanned aircrafts. This license is called a Remote Pilot Certificate and ensures the pilot understands the rules of use.

Along with basic safe flying practices, drone pilots must understand the flight height requirements and where they can and cannot fly. It’s important to note that not only is the pilot legally responsible for the safety of the drone use, but the person who hires them as well.

More Drone Photography Resources

Aerial Drone Inspection Operators & Photography Services (AdiOps), is an industrial drone solutions provider in the NJ-NY metro market. AdiOps offers clients high-end drone-based solutions, with the latest cutting-edge technologies embedded and supported by industry professionals. Aerial Drone Inspection Operators & Photography Services (AdiOps) is focused on providing solutions in the oil & gas, mining, construction, infrastructure and power sectors.