It's no wonder that drone video production has become so popular. It allows you to get shots that deliver a perspective everyone dreams of, yet rarely has the opportunity to experience. However before you hire a drone video production company, there are some things you need to know. You can't just go out and start filming video from the air. Unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) a.k.a. drones are regulated entities. Thus, there are some basic facts you must know.

Drone Operators Must Have a License

The FAA considers drone operation for video production "work" because it is related to conducting business. This means any drone pilot you hire must have a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate, must be 16 years of age, and must also pass the TSA vetting process. In fact there's a steep fine for anyone who tries to sell drone photos without obtaining a license. The minimum fine is $1,414.

There are testing centers nationwide where drone operators can take the Aeronautical Knowledge Test. Passing the test opens the door to submitting the FAA airmen certificate and/or rating application. As long as the video operator you hire has a temporary airman certificate, its legal to offer drone video services.

Drones Must Meet Specifications

Drones that weigh under 0.55 lbs. (250 grams) don't have to be registered with the FAA. Those that do weigh over 250 grams must be registered, and must also undergo pre-flight checks. Failure to register an unmanned aircraft that weighs over 250 grams is subject to civil and potential criminal penalties.

Drone Operators Must Follow the Rules

No Drone Zone

You must also be aware that there are No Drone Zones. For example, there are serious restrictions for flying drones in Washington DC. National parks and army bases also have no-drone restrictions. Cities like New York have proposed adopting No Drone Zones, so it's important to make sure you have current information before choosing a video location.

Even when flying for fun, a drone operator must always yield the right-of-way to a manned aircraft. It's also mandatory that drone operators notify any airport or air traffic control tower if the drone will be in the air within 5 miles of an airport.

When flying for profit (work), operators must always be able to see any unmanned aircraft system at all times. In addition, the drone must:

  • Yield the right-of-way to manned aircraft
  • Stay under 400 feet above the ground
  • Fly only during daylight hours
  • Never exceed 100 mph
  • Never fly over people
  • Never fly out of a moving vehicle, airplane or boat

If your video concept requires any deviation from these roles, be sure a Part 107 waiver is filed and receives approval. The FAA requires a description of how the drone pilot will execute any proposed deviations from the rules safely. As long as the FAA finds it's possible to film safely following a proposed strategy the waiver is likely to be approved.

Typical waivers include permission:

  • To operate from a moving vehicle, boat or aircraft
  • To inspect power lines in populated areas
  • To inspect pipe lines in populated areas
  • To film in populated areas
  • To conduct search and rescue at night
  • To assist with firefighting or law enforcement at night
  • To operate a drone out of visual line of sight (common for mapping, search and rescue, and agricultural applications)
  • To operate multiple drones at one time
  • To capture news footage over a crowd
  • To monitor large crowds
  • To film concerts or demonstrations
  • To operate within class B, C, D, or E airspace

It is possible that an experienced drone video company may already have waivers in place. If so, it may not be necessary to apply for a project-specific waiver. The typical waiver lasts for 4 years.


While theres only one level of certification for drone operators, you want to be sure youre working with someone who holds a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate. If you choose to do your own drone video production, get certified as a drone pilot before releasing any photographs or videos captured from your drone.

Its not worth violating FAA rules, because the FAA can charge the same $1,414 fine for each rule youve broken. The fees can multiply rapidly! Once a video or photograph is recognized for its profit potential, its harder to claim your drone flying time was for fun alone. If you have any questions use the button below and reach out to one of our expereinced drone operators. Stay safe!

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