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.  Many models offer the ability to “live stream” the media from the camera to the operator on the ground in real time.  The cost to operate the units is much less than an airplane or helicopter and therefore we can offer 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 Section 333 Exemption and/or a Part 107 UAS Airman Certificate.  On August 29, 2016, the 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 realtor using drone footage for a listing.  Even if the realtor is not directly getting paid for the flight, the ultimate purpose is to earn income through the sale of the home.  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 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.

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

Q: Can you fly 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.

Q: How long can you fly?
A: Our Drones can operate for 15-20 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 15-20 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 a UAS 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 technically possible with the obstacle avoidance technology now present in the latest drones.  We do not recommend it however,  It can be dangerous both to people and property and drones can only be flown in manual mode indoors (no GPS) which can be unpredictable, even with experienced pilots.  Since the FAA prohibits flying over people that is also a limiting factor.  We have other options for interior video including elevated cameras, gimbal stabilized cameras, and fluid head tripods.

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 for agents and sellers, video stabilization to smooth out bumps in flight, licensed background audio tracks, and moving text (callouts) to our videos.  We also 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 our 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.  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