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Why Hire a Drone Pilot? Why Can't I Fly Myself?

Updated: Jan 11, 2023

Good news, you can fly a drone yourself! So what are the benefits of hiring a drone pilot then?



We get this question a lot. Many people buy a drone hoping to use it for their business but end up hopelessly lost, accidentally breaking laws without realizing it, or not knowing what to do with their footage after they take it.


This question is wrapped up in many layers, so I wanted to take the time to explain what pains you can avoid by hiring a drone pilot - but also explain what you would need in order to fly your own drone legally, whether for your own business or another commercial endeavor.


We don't want to scare you from flying drones yourself, as we love our fellow drone enthusiasts! But there ARE some things you should be aware of in order to stay legal, and for us all to stay safe in our skies together!


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There are laws!?




This may come as a shock, but yes there are laws for flying drones! I know, I know... We don't like being restricted either, but the Federal Government and, really, even ourselves included don't think it's a good idea to create a wild wild west in the skies. Thankfully when you hire reputable drone pilots, you don't have to worry about these laws! If you found yourself a good, experienced drone pilot they will already know all of these laws. So what laws affect drones, you ask?


The most important law to follow concerning commercial drone use is to have your Part 107 license!



What if all you're doing is taking pictures for your company's Instagram, or just trading some drone photos for a batch of cookies? In truth, the FAA will not care. If you fly for self-promotion or exchanging services (even just for cookies), without registering your drone and being certified under Part 107, you will be breaking the law.


Okay, so what about flying recreationally? As of June 2021, recreational fliers must now take the TRUST test prior to flying - This test helps ensure that even novice drone pilots know enough not to hurt themselves or the public. You can find more information HERE.


How bad could it be if I break the law? Well here is one example from our friends at LIDAR News:


"Under the law known as 49 U.S.C. section 44103(d), a drone operator who is flying a drone that weighs more than 0.55 lbs. must register the drone. The drone pilot must be able to show the registration document to any law enforcement officer who requests to see it.

Failure to follow this law may result in civil penalties of up to $32,666 per incident. The FAA may also impose criminal sanctions, which include a fine of up to $250,000 and/or a prison sentence of up to three years upon conviction." That is a possible $32,666 fine, JUST FOR NOT REGISTERING. If someone gets hurt, or there are property damages, the potential for these fines as well as possible jail time goes up quite quickly.


Let's avoid this being you, save money by following the law - Teslas Drones LLC

So breaking the law is clearly bad. So what laws DO you have to follow? There are many! You'll need to have your Part 107 license, and current drone registration, know the local drone ordinances, privacy laws, height restrictions, and applicable LAANC authorization, follow drone weight restrictions, have RFID implementation, and much more. The worst part is, drones are so new the drone laws are always changing! The laws are also different depending on the country you're in, the state you're in, if there are county ordinances or city regulations, what you're using the footage for, how close you are to an airport or helicopter flight path or military base, or can even be dependent on the weather! So triple-check your local laws and please make sure you follow all of them!


Photo Credit to techdrinking.com

You will need to stay on top of learning new drone laws since drones are such a new technology that the FAA is still navigating which laws need to be enacted and which ones are too strict. This can lead to a lot of confusion if you aren't keeping up to date constantly.


What's the harm of a few unlawful flights if they don't hurt anyone? If you're thinking about this question you have to think: "how many others are also thinking about it?" In just a few years we could be seeing hundreds of thousands of unaccountable drone pilots crashing into powerlines, helicopters, buildings, cars, and even people. Without the proper training, you may be unaware of the dangers you pose to yourself and everyone around you.


Knowing the possible dangers of rampant reckless drone pilots, the Federal Aviation Administration has started to crack down on illegal drone activities. They started by mandating all drones to have receivers on them, called Radio-frequency identification, that can track your current whereabouts for faster apprehension and legal prosecution. If you are thinking you could slip through the cracks, be aware that as more people break these laws, the FAA will be making bigger and bigger examples out of lawbreakers. Don't be made an example out of, follow the rules of the sky just like you do the rules of the road.


So how do you fly legally if you still want to fly yourself? First, you'll have to take the FAA Part 107 certification test.



 

Part 107 FAA Certification


One of the biggest benefits of hiring a drone pilot is not having to take the Part 107 test! Why do we say that? Because it's a long, complicated and boring process. Let me explain.


Flying a drone is no longer as simple as buying a drone and taking off, not if you want to do it safely and legally. Drones can be dangerous and can cause serious injuries if you aren't careful.


Teslas Drones LLC - "We do not condone a lawless drone society"

This is why the Federal Aviation Administration has now mandated all drone footage being used for self-promotion or commercial proposes to be created by a drone pilot who is certified under Part 107. There is no exception.


What is Part 107 you ask? It is an airman test all officially licensed drone pilots must take at a certified airport in order to prove they have competency in all drone laws and air traffic control laws. This keeps the skies safer not only for you and the people around you but also for the many planes, helicopters, or other aircraft likely to fly over you.


What if you fly without this certification? I'll just go ahead and refer you to the previous section where I explain that you can be fined $32,666 for simply not registering your drone, and possibly even get prison time! It's best not to upset the federal government, truly.


How hard is it? Well, this depends. If you cram for a month and take the test it might be incredibly difficult. However, if you take the recommended 3-6 months to study and take classes, it may well be a bit easier. You can find classes online such as UAV Coach and Drone Pilot Ground School. This test is not for the faint of heart though. Just take a look at this VFR chart as an example:

In order to pass the Part 107 FAA aeronautical test you must be able to read these maps. They are known as VFR Charts. They help drone pilots and indeed all pilots know where they can fly, the maximum altitude, nearby flight hazards, local airports, and air traffic control tower information, among other things. That's not all though. In order to pass the Part 107 test the FAA website also states that you'll need to know:


  • Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation

  • Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation

  • Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance

  • Small unmanned aircraft loading and performance

  • Emergency procedures

  • Crew resource management

  • Radio communication procedures

  • Determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft

  • Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol

  • Aeronautical decision-making and judgment

  • Airport operations

  • Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures

  • Operation at night


Did you skim through that without reading it? That's because it's a lot of boring stuff, we know! That's why we now have drone service companies!


If you still aren't deterred from taking the FAA Part 107 test, that's awesome! Neither were we! If you think you're ready to take on flying commercial drones, then we have a few good places for you to start!


The first and best place to start would be the Federal Aviation Administrations website itself. There will be excellent information here about the exact process you'll need to go through, and testing locations. The FAA realizes that this is a multibillion-dollar business that is only growing, and they are putting in tremendous effort to help us learn and understand the laws and regulations. You can find their drone page HERE.


You can also check out your local drone school or check out some of our favorites: UAV Coach and Drone Pilot Ground School.


Think you're ready for the test now? We recommend taking the practice test! You can find a great practice test on the official FAA website HERE.


Once you take the Part 107 test though, it is still not over. You'll need to take this test every 24 calendar months to keep up to date on the ever-changing drone laws. You can find this test HERE.


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Teslas Drones LLC - Real Estate Drone Photography

 


The Cost of Drones


This is another great part about using professional drone pilots - They already have the right drones for the job, so YOU don't have to buy them!


So what comes after getting your Part 107? You buy a drone! Not to freak you out, but drones are expensive! Especially when you start getting into more specialized drones for construction, thermal imaging, or high-quality photography. Just as with any tool of the trade you want to have the right drone for the job. You could be looking at spending anywhere from $1,000 - $30,000 for a drone that you may only need once or twice a year, or that you may need multiple times a week.


So how do you find the right drone? This can be a lot of research to figure out. There are so many types of drones that we had to make a separate blog to explain them all! You can find some examples of various drones HERE.





There are underwater drones, FPV drones, thermal drones, big drones, small drones, hobby drones, toy drones, military drones... the list goes on and is constantly growing! Cameras in drones are constantly changing too, so even if you have the right drone now, it might end up out of date really quickly.


There are also some other issues to be aware of when buying drones that may not necessarily pertain to the quality of the drone. Foreign relations are one such issue. Lately, relations with China have been strenuous in the drone industry. One of the biggest manufacturers in the drone industry has come under fire in the United States and in the next 3 years, it may be illegal for government entities to buy.


So do your research before buying a drone for your business! We don't want you to waste your valuable money on a drone you can't even fly.



 

Drone settings


Drone settings! This is where a professional drone pilot often stands out from the crowd. Obviously, when you hire a professional they'll know these settings by heart, but what if you want to be that pilot?





It's hard to take good drone photos when you don't know which settings are which. You'll have to set up your camera with the right white balance, shutter speed, aperture, exposure, AEB, iso, etc. Not only do you have to mess with the camera settings, but you also have to mind the drone settings such as yaw, attitude, breaking, sensors, RTH, gimbal control, controller sensitivity, and much more! Often these settings can be the difference between a good shot, and bad-looking footage flying into a tree or other obstacle.


While flying you only have so much time to capture a shot before your battery dies (on average you have about 15 minutes). So you don't want to waste any time in the air messing with settings or updating the firmware in the middle of the flight.


Every drone is different as well so it comes as no surprise that the settings for each drone will be different too. We highly recommend that right after you get a drone, you test out all the settings and really read that instruction manual. You can also find plenty of YouTube videos for the exact settings you should use for different shots based on your drones specifications.


Don't let your drone fly off into the sunset without you, know your drones settings - Teslas Drones LLC

 

Drones are dangerous, so you need experience


Hiring an experienced and professional drone pilot can seriously reduce any potential dangers involved with flying, so make sure your drone pilots are actually experienced AND have their certifications.

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Now that you have your drone, you're all set to go right? Not quite. Don't be fooled by our no-crash record. Drones are dangerous, especially when you get to the kind of drones that take high-quality videos and photos. Even some of the smallest drones can chop off a finger.


Getting your Part 107 does NOT mean you are a proficient flyer, it just means you are knowledgeable in the laws and regulations revolving around drones. In fact, you don't even have to fly a drone to get your Part 107. So be careful when hiring drone pilots, always make sure they are experienced as well as licensed.


Not that long ago a client of ours told us he used a photographer that didn't know his drone well, and he flew his drone into the client's chest. It caused some deep cuts and obviously hurt a lot! This is what can happen when you are unfamiliar with a flying machine that works by spinning four swinging razors at high speeds!


Flying a drone is a complex and difficult task. There are air currents to be aware of, temperature differences that can lower your altitude swiftly, helicopters that may be in the area, air traffic control area restrictions, low-hanging branches, software malfunction, hardware malfunction, battery dislodgment, bird attacks, and automated return to home sequences that are all examples of singular things that can go wrong during a flight.


If you don't have previous experience, flight time, and a proper understanding of safety procedures your drone can crash and cause you to lose a drones worth of money, or even worse, you could seriously injure someone.


So before you start using your drone for your business, practice! Practice a lot in fact!


 


Editing



Congratulations! If you've accomplished all this you may now be a hearty drone pilot, but the work doesn't stop here. Every drone professional should also be a professional editor. There's no use in getting a drone if you can't do anything with the pictures you take!

We have seen this all too often. Many people buy drones thinking that because they have the right hardware, the pictures will immediately turn out breathtaking. Truth be told though, a lot goes into a making a picture other than just getting the shot in frame.



Everything needs to be edited! Photos, videos, roof reports, 3D models, orthomosaic maps, everything! Editing is an incredibly time consuming and tedious business that often times goes unnoticed but is incredibly important.


Below we have an example of one of our drone shots before and after we edited.





As you can see, the 2nd photo looks much, much better. Our editor added a full heart design of the rose petals, brought out the colors, added a lighting effect, and edited out some unsightly objects. How does one do this though?


You need to have the right software to start off with, so you'll need to do your research. Often some software is better at certain tasks, so test out various editing softwares before settling on any one. We highly recommend Adobe for first timers.


Editing software is also always changing though! New programs come out with new and improved tools and that means eventually you'll be editing with outdated software... And in quick time, that becomes noticeable!


This is true for photo editing, video editing, 3D modeling, roof reports, and everything in-between!


After you find the right editing software, that's where the real work comes in. You'll need to practice like crazy to start making noticeably breathtaking shots.


Don't get discouraged if you don't pick it up right away. Most editors have been learning their trade for years in order to be able to create breathtaking shots in only a few minutes. It just takes a LOT of practice!



 

So why hire a drone pilot?


As you can see, being a professional drone pilot is not as easy as unboxing-and-flying. Just like every profession, there are intricate nuances that can't be overlooked. I created this blog not to scare you, but to help educate you. Drones are often marketed as toys and their dangers are masked by that marketing, but not many toys can take down a helicopter or half a cities power grid by mistake. It's also easy to forget that the work doesn't stop at just flying a drone, you also have to have intricate knowledge of multiple editing softwares, aviation laws, drone settings, photography, videography, airport operations, and operating requirements.


So if you plan on buying a drone in the near future, do your research!


Or hire a drone pilot!




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