Example 2: Taking photographs with a drone for personal use is OK, but realtors can’t use their own drones to photograph a property they are selling, and a drone photographer can’t take pictures of a “property or event” and sell them to someone else. So, what if a home-owner takes some personal photos of a house, then later decides to sell the house, can the home-owner post the photos on a “sell-it-yourself” real estate website? Can the home-owner give the photos to a realtor who will then use them to try to sell the house for the homeowner? Should there be a distinction between photos taken before the home-owner lists the house or sale and those taken after the house has been listed for sale (at which point it could be said that the home-owner clearly intended to use the drone photos to sell the house)?
Over the past several months, I have seen a decided decrease in the number of drone operators who are clearly offering to shoot drone footage of real estate or other structures for a price. I have been personally following about five of these operators and suddenly they no longer offer footage for dollars, but rather talk about providing all-encompassing “solutions” to problems. So, is a “solution” that offers $10,000 of “consultation” with a free drone video thrown in “commercial”, or are they still “hobbyists”?
A category that the FAA didn’t directly address but which stands out in my mind is when people use drones for clearly “indirectly-commercial” purposes. For example, a number of outfits that either sell drones or sell services related to drones have all sorts of cool YouTube videos showing one of more of a) their skills as drone pilots, b) their complete disregard for FAA and other drone-related guidelines in what I consider to be an entirely inappropriate attempt to be “the cool rebel”, or c) how well their drone-related products work. None of these groups are actually taking cash for their flights, but all clearly are using drones to build an image they hope result in sales of their products or their services. Are these “commercial flights”?
If you shot a cool YouTube video from your drone and you put an advertising message at the beginning, does this transform an otherwise “hobby” flight into a commercial one?
My wife and I just completed a project in Thailand where we flew our drone over the roof of a Buddhist temple, then edited the footage to show the monks where they had missing roof tiles, birds nesting in the rafters, and even plants growing out of the side of the temples. We didn’t ask for any money from the monks, and the project was definitely one of the most fun and worthwhile things I have ever done, but if posting the video results a lot of people noticing the resort my wife and I own in Thailand, were they “commercial flights”?