Although the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was tasked last year to open up airspace for more private and commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, these new rules and regulations are not quite there yet. In fact, the drone fleet of one Minnesota business was recently grounded because the FAA isn't slated to begin issuing commercial permits for UAVs until 2015.
Earlier this month, NBC reported aerial photographer Mark Bateson pointing out that many hobbyists can get away with UAV photography or videography under remote-control guidelines.
"But as soon as you turn it into a business ... the FAA says you are violating the national airspace," Bateson said.
According to WCCO, this is exactly what happened to Charles Eide and Mike Danielson of Brooklyn Park, Minn. The pair flew RC aircraft growing up in the same neighborhood together and in adulthood shared a love of photography and videography.
This is where they combined the two with Fly Boys Aerial Cinematography, putting cameras on their drones and taking aerial photos of anything a customer might need.
“It helps sell houses, which is really in my opinion a huge economic impact in the Twin Cities — helps houses move faster,” Eide told WCCO.
Watch WCCO's report:
Here's how they describe the work on their company website:
We are a Passionate group of film makers excited about amazing aerial cinematography. We capture our film and photos from a variety of cameras and lenses mounted on Radio Controlled Helicopters and Multirotor systems to get the smoothest, most incredible low range aerials. We are a Minnesota based Drone and unmanned, low range aerial company. We shoot for Television, Film, Corporate, Non Profit and more. Our Radio Controlled Airships are safe and reliable. Our Pilots are some of the best in the world.
All Aerials are flown with visual line of sight. That means that our RC Heli Pilot controls the aircraft by looking directly at it. Our Camera system sends a wireless video down-link to our ground station that our camera operator controls. The camera operator controls the camera by watching what the camera is seeing, and controlling its direction, focus and other functions to ensure a quality shot.
They also devote a full page on their website to describing how they safely fly the equipment.
Watch this demo showing what they can do:
Business was doing well until recently when they were contacted by the FAA, which said they were violating regulations by flying in "Class B" airspace, or that which is in populated areas near major airports. Eide said they rarely fly above 200 feet and never near airports. A recent drone sighting by a pilot near an airport in New York City resulted in an investigation being launched by the FBI earlier this month.
NBC's article reported that the current regulations grounding commercial uses of such aircraft are hard to enforce and some are taking their chances against them anyway.
"Honestly?" said one commercial operator who told NBC he wished remain anonymous. "My hope is that I'm far afield enough and small enough potatoes to the FAA that I can fly under the radar on this one."
Eide said he and his partner hope to work with the FAA to remedy this situation. Now being made aware of the regulations though, the Fly Boys have a disclaimer on their website saying they can only fly for demonstration purposes at the time.