A very important aspect of hiring an aerial photography pilot that is often overlooked is to be sure they are properly licensed with the FAA.

Did you know that it is illegal for an aerial photography pilot to fly commercially in the United States?  That is unless the individual flying has obtained a Remote Pilot Certificate.  This is done by passing a written exam from the FAA? You heard us right! One exception is if an individual has a traditional Section 333 Exemption.  This exemption is was what aerial pilots used to need to operate drones or UAS’s (Unmanned Aerial System) commercially from 2014 to 2016. It’s a process that no longer exists and is no longer required for the commercial operation of drones.

For an aerial photography pilot that is unlicensed, the fine is $1,100 per occurrence where imagery is used commercially.  More important perhaps, the fine for a real estate agent who knowingly hires an unlicensed aerial photography pilot is $11,000This doesn’t just pertain to real estate agents.  Anyone who knowingly hires an uncertified remote pilot for a commercial operation can be fined as much as 10-times more than the pilot.

That said, in order to operate commercially where “commercial” describes any kind of flight operation that can be tied to economic benefit, the FAA requires a remote ground pilot to get certified. FAA Part 107 explicitly regulates commercial sUAS (Small Unmanned Aerial Systems) activities.


How Have The Requirements For Aerial Photography Pilots Changed Over The Years?


Drones have been around for a number of years now, however, the first few thousand “certified” aerial pilots in the United States were filming real estate and film/cinematography, as well as precision agriculture and the inspection/monitoring of utility and energy infrastructure.
Under Part 107, which the FAA announced on June 21st, 2016 and implemented on August 29th, 2016, commercial drone operators are required to:

  • Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at one of around 700 FAA-approved knowledge testing centers across the United States.
  • Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
  • Obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate with a small UAS rating (like existing pilot airman certificates, that never expires).
  • Pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.
  • Be at least 16 years old.
  • Make available to the FAA, upon request, the small UAS for inspection or testing, and any associated documents/records required to be kept under the proposed rule.
  • Report an accident to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage over $500.
  • Conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks, to ensure the small UAS is safe for operation.
… and more…


Commercial vs. Enthusiast


The requirement for certification only applies to drone (aerial pilots) opporating for economic benefit. If a person is just planning to fly their drone/UAV recreationally, then, “No,” they do not need Part 107, the Section 333 exemption or any other kind of UAV certification. They would just need to abide by standard safety guidelines as regulated per the FAA. A few of those guidelines include:

  • Flying in the daylight
  • Flying under 400 feet
  • Establishing a direct line-of-sight
  • Not flying in national parks
  • Not flying directly over people
  • …and more

The Know Before You Fly app is a must have resource to help non-commercial pilots understand the recreational sUAS guidelines.


Our Aerial Photography Pilots Are License AND Insured


Our pilots are fully trained and licensed under FAA Part 107 regulations with extensive flying experience, and total commitment to government compliance.

Additionally, while we have many hours of safe flying experience in a wide variety of conditions and locations under our belts, the need for liability protection cannot be overlooked. While meticulous planning and pre-flight procedures ensure the reliability of our equipment, and the safety of everyone involved, if a drone operator isn’t licensed and an accident occurs, your company can be held responsible for damages and/or lawsuits that come your way. That said, Revitup Media Productions is insured for each project by Starr Indemnity Liability Company for $1,000,000 covering property damage, bodily injury and privacy claims. Additional insurance is available as needed.




In conclusion, important consideration should be made before hiring an aerial photography pilot for your company’s aerial photography or videography needs. We hope this information helps you as you develop the strategy for your next project.  To see our portfolio of aerial photography and videography, click here.

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