I know I need to get a permit to fly drone for aerial photography business. Can anyone point me to the permit application requirement? Do I have to be active pilot? If yes, what is the lowest/cheapest pilot license I can get?

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This site helped me. Its a long process to get everything put together correctly. I got help to be honest. I've read the sport license is the lowest level you can get. Yes, right now, you need one but the faa should have uav license requirements soon. Good luck.


Yeah, as Jay said, you are supposed to get an Exemption from the FAA. As far as permits go, that is usually a local thing depending on local laws and ordinances. So far they are rare, in most cases not required. Generally local governments are just blanket banning drone use because they are scared.

Good luck!

yup. im in florida and Rick Scott signed a bill/law whatever that said you need permission to take any photos/video of homes. this seemed unreasonable at first but then it stated only if the reason you are using the uav is for surveillance. inadvertent photos im sure will not be an issue. 

Thanks for all the replies. Is my understanding correct? I need to have pilot license to file for the Exemption Section 333 in order to have legal aerial photography business? I live in California, I believe we don't have any restriction from local government agency yet.

incorrect. you do not need a pilots license to file. BUT, most likely if your exemption is approved, it will state you cannot fly unless the PIC (pilot in command) has a pilots license. so you can hire someone to fly your uav using your exemption. The exemption is for you or your business, not the PIC. again, the process could take months but by that time the faa should have a UAV license requirements ready for people. its like driving a car, some know how to drive but you need a license to be legal. 

Thanks Jay ! I have better understanding now. Do you mind to share how much did you spend to file the Exemption?

$500 using uavsa.org. Very helpful organization that seems to really care. contact them and you won't be sorry. They are swamped but have hired more staff to help out and they really know what they are doing. i was thoroughly impressed. i just filled out a form for an insurance quote as well. 

My understanding is that you must have a pilot's license to operate an aircraft with an air-worthiness certificate. However, one of the common exemption requests is relief from air-worthiness inspections, which in turn means that a pilot's license is not required. Another rule is that you must have an Airmans Certificate to operate aircraft in the National Air Space which, again from my understanding, is not a pilot's license; for instance, you can be cleared for ground ops with an Airmans Certificate without being a pilot. Consider that a sport pilot license tests specifically on Airplanes, Gliders, Gyroplanes, Powered Parachutes, and Weight-Shift-Control aircraft, none of which are UAS. There is also the definition of "aircraft" to consider, as well as the fact that legal precedent seems to indicate that the FAA doesn't even have jurisdiction outside the NAS, which only extends down to 500' and within transition zones, so maybe the whole thing is moot until new laws are passed. I would be happy to stand corrected on any of these points.

It's a lot of fun, all in all.

Justin, you may be correct in these descriptions I really do not know as I am very new to this industry. However, i asked very specific questions regarding the pilot license requirements to the chairman at uavsa.org and he stated right now you must have at least a sport pilot license to fly a uas. he has seen no 333 exemption approved without this requirement. people/businesses may "request" an exemption to this but its not been approved. i urge you to contact them either by phone or email. they are very good people that want to help folks in this industry fly legally. they are not for profit but their people do get paid for their work.

Here's the FAA language in a recent approval:

"Under this grant of exemption, a PIC must hold either an airline transport, commercial, private, recreational, or sport pilot certificate. The PIC must also hold a current FAA airman medical certificate or a valid U.S. driver’s license issued by a state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, a territory, a possession, or the Federal government. The PIC must also meet the flight review requirements specified in 14CFR §61.56 in an aircraft in which the PIC is rated on his or her pilot certificate."

Seems a little more clear to me now, except for the fact that there are certain training time minimums for different types of sport aircraft certification, none of which are UAS. I guess you'd go for the "Lighter Than Air, Balloons" category, which requires only 7 hours of training.

Thanks, I'm still figuring this out myself!

FYI, one ballpark figure for obtaining just the Lighter Than Air, Balloon flavor of Sport Pilot certification: $5,500.

guys the faa will have a uav/uas license soon so this will not be necessary if just flying multirotors for business. but of course even if you have a uas/uav license you will still need the 333 exemption plus COAs if the blanket one in effect now does not serve you.

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