From Drone U to You – July 16, 2018
“Dealing with Unlicensed Drone Operators”
Good Morning fellow drone enthusiasts!
Today I want to talk a bit about a common theme that is popping up repeatedly in many of the UAS online threads. This occurs in both commercial and hobby threads. That commonality is what to do when you see illegal or dangerous flights. And remember, these are not always the same thing.
Let’s first talk about operators who fly commercially without a Remote Pilot Certificate (commonly called a 107).
Yes, it’s frustrating and technically illegal. But the reality of things says the FAA isn’t staffed to do anything about this. Odds are these fliers will eventually crash their birds, or just go out of business. And remember, even if they are carrying insurance (which they probably aren’t), since they are not flying within the rules of commercial drone operations, I can pretty much guarantee that their insurance won’t pay out if there is a claim.
And this is probably your best approach when dealing with clients who hire them. Let them know that if there is an “incident”, the client will be included in the inevitable lawsuit filed by the person who ends up injured or with property damage during that “incident”. Ask them if they’re really willing to save a bit of money and take that chance. It’s all about risk vs. reward. And they’re likely to have much deeper pockets than that particular illegal operator.
That is your best course of action when dealing with this objection from clients. If they still don’t care, you don’t want those type of clients anyway. Tell them “Good luck” and move on.
You can also attempt to educate that offending operator, but odds are that won’t go anywhere.
Now let’s talk a bit about dangerous operations. This is a MUCH more serious issue, and this is where the FAA has said they’d like our help. And by “help”, that doesn’t mean going on Facebook and exposing them to fellow droners. That’s just public bitching, and that never accomplishes anything positive.
So what do we do? We report them. But only after we try and educate them.
Much like the old R/C days, and CB Radio days, it really is about education. So how do we educate? Simply go up and start talking. You’re a fellow droner, I’m sure they’d love to talk to you. But wait until they land. Ignorance of the rules is probably the one single largest reason for so many rules violations, and it’s all about approach. If you approach them with an air of superiority and outrage, it’s not going to end well. Heck, it won’t even start out well. Ask them if they were aware that what they are doing is probably a really bad idea, and then explain why. If that doesn’t work, take step two. Or if they are arrogant about it, also go to step two.
Step two is simple. Take out your phone and start filming them fly. See if you can get close enough to get their face and registration number on the bird. You may even want to film them before you approach them. Just in case.
Then, upload that video to YouTube and make it private or at least non-public. Then report them. Go here: https://hotline.faa.gov and fill out the report. But ONLY if it’s a dangerous situation. And ONLY if you have evidence. The FAA investigates all reports, and it you just file one without any evidence, you’re wasting their time and taking it away from investigations that can actually produce results. Be as through as possible in your report.
But remember, the FAA doesn’t want you to report each Bobby or Suzy who just bought a drone on Amazon and started a drone business sans 107. It’s just not a priority, and it takes away from real issues. But if you see truly dangerous situations, and can safely do something about it (it’s important to not put yourself in danger too), then follow the above steps to address the situation.
I hope this helps in our constant attempt to drive this industry forward.
Good luck, and fly safe.
Moss Photography/Drone U