Warning from the LAPD--do not use UAVs commercially!

Please see this warning from the Los Angeles Police Department, sent to the California Association of Realtors. Discussion on helifreak here.  More background and discussion here. I'll be talking to the NYT about this tomorrow. 

Short form: Amateur UAV use within the usual FAA guidelines (under 400ft, within visual line-of-sight, away from built-up-areas) is allowed, as always. But commercial use requires a COA, which you're not going to get. So there's nothing new here, but it's a reminder that the guidelines will be enforced.

LAPD Warning Against Hiring Unmanned Aircraft Operators for Aerial Photos

Los Angeles authorities have asked C.A.R. to communicate this warning to REALTORS® who hire unmanned aircraft operators to take aerial photographs for marketing high-end properties.  Using these devices (also known as drones) for flight in the air with no onboard pilot may violate, among other things, the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) policy on unmanned aircrafts, and Los Angeles's local ordinance requiring permits for filming commercial motion pictures and still photographs.

The Los Angeles Police Department's (LAPD) investigation has apparently revealed that aerial photos where unmanned aircraft were observed have appeared on certain real estate sales websites.  According to FilmL.A., the LAPD Air Division has issued this warning as it intends to prosecute violators in the near future.  FilmL.A. is a public benefit company created by the City and County of Los Angeles to manage film permit activity and related issues.

Under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)'s current policy, no one can operate an unmanned aircraft in the National Airspace System without specific authority.  Operators who wish to fly an unmanned aircraft for civil use must obtain an FAA experimental airworthiness certificate, which will not be issued to an unmanned aircraft used for compensation or hire. Although the FAA allows hobbyists to fly model airplanes for recreational purposes under specific guidelines, that authority does not extend to operators flying unmanned aircraft for business purposes. More information is available from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Notice on Unmanned Aircraft Operations and the FAA's policy. 

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Comment by John Johnson on January 29, 2012 at 9:25pm
It's the flight for hire that is the violation. No camera required. You can fly and monitor your neighborhood all you want in the eyes of the FAA. Just don't receive compensation.
Comment by Steven Thompson on January 30, 2012 at 12:27am

So what happened with the writ of habeas corpus and every man’s home is his castle and you know, the Constitution?

I've invited someone take pictures of my home by a remote device and that's illegal?

That's just stupid.

Comment by Alfred Riopel on January 30, 2012 at 6:57am

This is what is driving the whole issue with the LAPD. Film permits and city fees.

"Los Angeles's local ordinance requiring permits for filming commercial motion pictures and still photographs.

The Los Angeles Police Department's (LAPD) investigation has apparently revealed that aerial photos where unmanned aircraft were observed have appeared on certain real estate sales websites.  According to FilmL.A., the LAPD Air Division has issued this warning as it intends to prosecute violators in the near future.  FilmL.A. is a public benefit company created by the City and County of Los Angeles to manage film permit activity and related issues."

Its a money thing. The LAPD would otherwise not give a rats butt about the FAA issue. Film LA created by the City to moniter and keep the Film permits coming in.

Comment by Gary Stofer on January 30, 2012 at 9:53am

This is the land of the free ????????????????

Comment by John Johnson on January 30, 2012 at 11:03am

Steven, your home is your castle.  The airspace above it is controlled by the FAA and protected by the DoD.  But you and many others keep posting which are apparently contain only partial information.  You can legally invite people to your home to take aerial photos any day of the week.  But when you say "invite", I think you mean "hire" or "give compensation", and that is illegal.  Making a play on words will not make your argument any stronger.

This is even true for the Native Americans.  They have their reservations which are sovereign nations, but the airspace above these sovereign nations is controlled and regulated by the FAA. 

I think the big picture here is that the advancements in technology has increased exponentially allowing the hobbyist to create systems which can produce results equal or better than that of the current professionals.  But the hobbyist is not likely to have the business knowledge to go with it and does not understand the requirements they must meet like everyone else does.  I would bet that of all those complaining about these laws and regulations than not a single person has both a small business and airspace management background.  If you did have these backgrounds and wanted to start making money doing aerial photography, you would instinctively know to research FAA regulations and apply for the appropriate licenses and permits where you will be doing business. 

Comment by Mookie on January 30, 2012 at 11:51am

im personally thinking that the worst thing about our country is going to be your friend. im truely not trying to start an arguement, but there is always a loophole. 


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Comment by Gary Mortimer on January 30, 2012 at 12:23pm

What John said, spot on.

Comment by Ellison Chan on January 30, 2012 at 12:33pm

I also agree with John.  But the problem is that the LAPD states categorically, that permits will not be granted.  This is not good for commerce.  Although I'm not sure LAPD can read the minds of the FAA.  

However, I suspect that what will eventually happen is that the Real Estate lobbyists will win out, at the end of the day. , if indeed using UAVs will help increase their bottom line.

Comment by Brad Smith on January 30, 2012 at 12:35pm

America will remain the land of the free only  as long as it,s the home of the Brave !

Comment by Ellison Chan on January 30, 2012 at 1:14pm

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