Commercial Use of UAVs

I have hesitated to speak publically about the commercial use of UAVs out of fear that the FAA will target me or attempt to fine my business.  However, I have drafted the attached letter and I have tagged the state and congressional representatives for our area in my social media postings about this post.  I would love the opportunity to speak to any one of you about what I do and what your stance is.  This issue will be a prime example of how you support small business.  Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and please let me know if we can talk.

An open letter to my representatives on the issue of UAVs:

Hello, my name is Shawn Ames. I am a business owner that operates in your district. My wife and I are both licensed Realtors but I also have a business that does virtual home tours for real estate. My business which is called, “Sphero Tours” is in its infancy but I hope to bring our services to markets across our state and eventually our region.

One aspect of our business that I eventually would like to grow is the use of UAVs for aerial photography and video work. I currently offer these services to my clients since there is currently no law prohibiting it. There is a lot of talk about restrictions and laws which could cripple that part of my business before it even gets started. Currently there are only rules that apply to a hobbyist’s use of a UAV and I am one that agrees that we need guidelines and restrictions. I urge those tasked with the responsibility to represent me to make sure that the restrictions and regulations that will be imposed don’t create a “barrier of entry” so great it blocks entrepreneurs like me.

Although I doubt the speculation, resent reports are being interpreted as if the FAA will require a full private pilot’s license to operate a UAV of any kind commercially. Not all of these UAVs are as scary as the media makes them out to be. I like the idea of reasonable restrictions for hobbyist as well as a licensing requirement for commercial use (however, not a full pilot’s license). It is imperative that there are different classifications for different type, weight and use of UAVs. Not all UAVs are created equal. The one I have and use to photograph real estate only weighs around 7 pounds and it has a range of 1500 feet with tons of safety features such as return to home. If the battery gets too low or if the UAV loses contact with the controller, it will return to where it took off and land itself.

There was a recent article that suggests that the president has been discussing privacy issues with UAVs. Unless we plan to paint shut all the windows on commercial and private planes, privacy from the sky is a moot point. Below, I will outline what I believe to be reasonable restrictions but I think it would be reasonable to restrict how close above someone’s property you can fly without permission but ultimately, the view of your property from the sky is open season already so why pick on UAVs. After using a UAV over the last several months and spending countless hours studying concerns, capabilities and reports of accidents (primarily by hobbyist) this is what I believe would be reasonable:

  1. Require a license to operate a UAV commercially. (With a test and possible class with a total expense of less than $1,000)
  2. Require license renewal and continuing education for commercial UAV operators. (With a total expense of less than $200 per year)
  3. Permit commercial UAV operators to operate their aircraft between FL4 & FL20 if filing a flight plan. (Under 400ft should be acceptable without a flight plan)
  4. Restrict any UAV from operating within 50’ of any structure without permission. (Also, no operation any closer than 100’ above someone’s property.)
  5. Prohibit and reasonably define “reckless use” of a UAV.
  6. Create classes of UAVs defined by weight, size, range and use. (I support higher levels of licensing for large scale use of UAVs such as delivery use and operation in densely     populated areas, such as sporting events, etc.)

Thank you for your service and representation! I’d be more than willing to speak to you about any of these issues. Your support is greatly appreciated!

Shawn Ames