Drone FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a Drone?
A: Drone is a nickname given to any aircraft in the category of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), or Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) weighing less than 55 lbs. (The name is also used to describe unmanned military aircraft.)  Almost all consumer drones are capable of carrying a payload (usually a camera) which captures images and/or video. Nearly all models offer the ability to “live stream” the media from the camera to the operator on the ground in real time, as well as to social media sites. The cost to operate the UAS units is much less than an airplane or helicopter and therefore we can offer commercial images and video at a lower cost.  It also saves on resources such as fuel and aircraft maintenance and even reduces emissions since UAS devices run off batteries.

Q: Is it illegal to operate drones commercially?
A: It is only illegal to operate commercially if you do not have the proper licensingAll of our UAS operators are licensed pilots and have an FAA Part 107 UAS Airman Certificate and/or Section 333 Exemption. On August 29, 2016, new FAA regulations (part 107) went into effect.  Please refer to the chart at the bottom of this page for more information. Anyone operating drones commercially is required to have the proper certifications and regulatory requirements in place.

Q: What is considered commercial drone operation?
A: The FAA considers anything tied to income as commercial operation.  This includes a roofer using shots of a roof on their website or a realtor using drone footage for a listing.  Even if the roofer or the realtor are not directly getting paid for the flight, the ultimate purpose is to earn income by winning new roofing clients or the sale of a real estate listing.  Basically if you are flying for any purpose other than hobby or recreation, it is commercial use and you need a license and are expected to comply with commercial regulations.

Q: How high can you fly?
A: The FAA guidelines state that UAS devices can fly no higher than 400 feet AGL (Above Ground Level) without a Certificate of Waiver from the FAA.  Most of the time we don’t need to get above 200 feet to capture the subject so this is usually not an issue.  An example of a valid reason to petition for permission to exceed the standard 400′ height restriction would be for wind turbine inspection since some of them are close to 400′ tall with the blades. This rule is in effect to protect manned aircraft, who have a general “floor” of 500 feet in most locations. *Please note this manned aircraft rule does not apply near airports.* Manned aircraft may be flying at much lower altitudes when coming in for a landing. And helicopters may fly at any altitude depending on the circumstances (Rescue choppers may land almost anywhere) so the key to safety is to remain vigilant, listen for manned aircraft, and follow the rules.

Q: Can you fly at night?
A: No, but it can be approved under part 107 with a valid reason. Night flying presents a number of dangers. The regulations state that drones can only fly between sunrise and sunset unless an exemption is granted from this rule by the FAA.

Q: Can you fly drones near airports?
A: It depends on the airport.  Some require approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and/or the local Air Traffic Control tower (ATC) and some do not.  Contact us with the address of your project and we can find out for you. We currently hold commercial airspace authorizations for most of Spokane, Spokane Valley, Coeur d’Alene, and Deer Park and can fly in controlled airspace in each location’s respective designated approval areas.

Q: How long can you fly?
A: Our Drones can operate for 12-25 minutes on a single battery depending on the aircraft we use, the wind speed, air temperature, aircraft load, and other conditions.  Each of our units have multiple batteries in order to extend flight time with additional 12-25 minute flights.  We also have the ability to charge batteries on location so we can fly uninterrupted for an entire day if needed.

Q: Can you fly over crowds of people?
A: The FAA guidelines state that you cannot fly an unmanned aircraft over anyone not involved in the flight operation (i.e. the remote pilot and visual observer).  This includes flying at stadiums, sporting events, wildfires, or over crowds of people, including first responders at the scene of an incident.  Some of these restrictions can be exempted on a per-flight basis but requires a valid reason.

Q: Can you fly indoors?
A: Yes and no.  While the FAA frowns upon it, it is not legally restricted and is in fact technically possible with the obstacle avoidance technology now present in the latest drones.  We do not recommend it in most cases, as it can be dangerous both to people and property. Drones can only be flown in manual mode indoors (no GPS) which can be unpredictable, even with experienced pilots and ideal conditions.  Since the FAA prohibits flying near people that is also a limiting factor.  We have other options for interior video including a custom rolling camera dolly, handheld gimbals, and fluid head tripods. Currently working on a motorized dolly which should be ready by summer 2018.

Q: What kind of video and image processing do you offer?
A: Spokane Drone Photography is owned by an experienced professional photographer and partnered with the best Spokane has to offer.  All still images captured from our drones are professionally edited before the final images are delivered.  We offer a full video production shop and have the ability to add attractive title pages, text boxes, custom graphics, and other effects. We use video stabilization to smooth out bumps in flight, add licensed background audio tracks, and can even add moving text & graphics (callouts) to our videos.

We work with TV and Film production companies on a project basis and our footage can be included in larger productions either as Primary or B-Roll media.  Many of our video flights are performed by a dual operator setup with one person flying the drone and the other operating the camera.  This gives us the ability to “fly” and “pan” independently and produces amazing cinematic results with our videos.

Q: Where can I study for the Part 107 test?
A: I recommend UAV Coach.  Watch Rob’s interview with them here.

Q: Where do I go to take the Part 107 test in Spokane?
A: I took mine here but any FAA Approved testing center is valid to take the test.

For anyone wishing to operate a Drone to make money, the following chart will be helpful.  Please note that the regulations in the right column are not valid for commercial Drone flight until an operator passes the FAA course and receives a UAS Airman Certificate ID Card.  Regulations are subject to change at any time. Nothing on this page should be taken as legal advice, and should be verified with the appropriate regulatory agency.

Requirements for operating in the National Airspace (NAS) Part 107 Regulations and how they apply to operators
You must have a certified aircraft Drone (UAS) operators must maintain a UAS in condition for safe operation in the NAS and must inspect before each flight
You must have a registered Aircraft You must register your UAS with the FAA to be in compliance. This applies to both commercial operators and hobbyists.
You must be a licensed pilot You must hold a UAS Airman Certificate after passing an aeronautical knowledge test and TSA background check
You must have operational approval You must operate according to the Part 107 regulations for UAS operators (max airspeed, max altitude, airspace restrictions, etc.) and you must know when approval from FAA/ATC is necessary.

Further questions? contact us

Interested in hearing how I got started in the drone industry? Check out this video: