Above Napa Valley


It really takes very little to become hooked on all this UAV stuff... Of course the learning curve for a complete and utter noob such as myself has been immense, but the payoff has been equally so. Being able to send my stock 3DR soaring above a sun-baked vineyard and have it return with a treasure trove of images including one like this, make all the time, frustration and money completely worth it!

Thanks to all of the developers, testers and enthusiasts that are making this possible. I'm looking forward to my continued education in the world of UAVs and upgrading my gear soon to be able to send my pro gear soaring. 


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  • Hi Jason (& all)-

    I'd love to meet up some day and see what you're up to. I live in Sonoma County- work in Santa Rosa & live out near Salt Point State Park (on the coast).  I have similar aspirations with aerial photography here locally... 

    Has anyone seen or heard of any enforcement by the FAA whatsoever? (as in, linkable news articles?)

    Thanks in advance,


  • The more I look into the FAA regulations the more confusing and contradictory it becomes.  Sure, the FAA has posted some announcements deeming any commercial use illegal, but how is it being enforced? How does it stack up against their own regulations?

    If UAVs can't be used commercially, then how can numerous companies be doing well with AP, freefly being one example.  Even more to the point, how do companies "get away with" advertising there products? For example when there is a photo of a 3DR hexa - in flight used for annoucing (i.e advertising) a new product, isn't that for commercial use?  Obviously, I am 100% 3DR, and just used them as an example, but I am sure you could find 100s of similiar examples.

    The commercial AP thing is frustrating because it's apparently perfectly legal to shoot video, pictures for a hobby, but the minute you want to do a shoot for a video, etc it becomes illegal.

    I am hoping in the next few years (ideally months) that this endless debate is put to rest by some clear direction from the FAA or a lawmaking body.  Until then, I am sure people will be still making videos to advertise a new UAV product or AP/AV work.

  • Lovely photos

  • I'm blown away by and really grateful for the conversation that's taken place on this post. And here I just thought I was posting a pretty picture. 

    As I mentioned earlier, the point and shoot camera I used for this image isn't of the caliber for my or other stock sites of value, but it's still perfect for learning the subtleties of flying my quad. I still intend to take aerial photos for personal use but how can I protect myself from the FAA should they feel some of my commercially available photos, which were legitimately made from the ground with the aid of a stand or otherwise high vantage point, from being construed as made with a UAV? There are many locations, such as the one where this shot was made where I'm not at sea level, and with long lenses make it seem that I'm much higher? Of course, I'm not talking about an obvious case where I'm 50 m high and it's clearly an aerial photo.

    For instance, here's a shot made from the ground near the same spot I was flying. Not a huge difference to me...


  • Hasufel,

    This is a quote from this FAQ (http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/uas_faq/) on the FAA site:

    "Can I fly a UAS under a COA or experimental certificate for commercial purposes?

    No. Currently, there are no means to obtain an authorization for commercial UAS operations in the NAS. However, manufacturers may apply for an experimental certificate for the purposes of R&D, market survey and crew training."

    There are also some good documents on this subject on that same website.  (such as this one http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/reg/media/frnotice_uas.pdf)

    It's pretty simple.  You cannot conduct ANY commercial operations with UAS in the NAS.  The NAS is defined by any air that is above the land in the United States and 12 miles off it's coastline.  This restriction is irregardless of the class of airspace.

    On another note, Class G airspace is defined as the space from the surface up to the bottom of Class E or the bottom of any other class of airspace.  It is "uncontrolled" airspace, but not "unregulated" airspace.  Uncontrolled means that the motion of vehicles operating in this airspace is not controlled by and air traffic controller.  It is up to the pilots to coordinate the movement of vehicles in this class airspace.  Again, this is just uncontrolled, not unregulated.

    I hope this has helped a little...I know this discussion has helped me learn a few new points that I did not know before.  I am still trying to learn and understand all of the ins and outs of UAS operations according to the FAA. There is quite a bit of reading to do and lots of questions still to be asked, so I am always researching and trying to understand what I can.    

  • Thank you Skydog, although the content of your link is the same as the first document I linked to (http://www.faa.gov/library/manuals/aviation/instrument_flying_handb...), however with a better explanation as to what the G class is - same as a G point - undefined.

    I'm beginning to see clearer. Still no mention of commercial usage restriction linked to class of national airspace tho...

  • Hasufel,

    Check out this site...it will explain a little more about the classes of airspace.  


  • Thank you Seth for always pointing in the right directions. How do you do that? :)

    Those news regulations will indeed take much time... I take note and write down this infamous date of August, 2014 in my watch-of-the-north-wall agenda. "Drone Countdown"...

  • Hasufel,

    See section 2 of 8130.34A for the permitted operations under an experimental certificate. As to what classes of airspace you are restricted to, for amateur and hobbyist use, Advisory Circular 91-57A is the applicable document, and it makes no reference to classes of airspace, just to notify the airport operator if flying within 3 miles of an airport.

    Obviously this is all pretty obtuse, and new regulations are being worked on right now by the FAA. This timeline by the Center for Democracy, unfortunately titled "Drone Countdown", distills pretty well the mandate set upon the FAA by congress for UAS NAS integration in the FAA reauthorization bill.

  • wow Seth, 7110.65U is a keeper! Incredible amount of information inside it. Will take me months if not years to grasp the extent of USA air regulations with just this document :)

    I didn't find any information as to what kind of Airspace we were restricted in the first two documents tho..

    But found page 8 on third document, at 8.0 'Flight Operations' the mention of 'Class A airspace':

    "Unless specifically authorized, UAS operations in other than active Restricted, Prohibited, or Warning Areas, or Class A airspace shall require visual observers, either airborne or ground-based."

    Then later on again at 8.22:

    "the UA is being operated in Class A, D or sometimes E airspace (See 9.2.14 for operations in Class B or C Airspace)".

    ...Would this mean that some areas are ruled under specific airspace classes and that there is no global national airspace law?

    Later on 8.2.7 this would be confirmed: Class A airspace cannot be flown at night... And confirmed again at 8.28:

    "Flights Below Class A Airspace All UAS operations (IFR or VFR) outside of active Restricted, Prohibited or Warning Areas and below flight level (FL) 180"

    So there is under Class A Airspace indeed :)

    They introduce once only the "national airspace system" (convenient term), linked to the classification.

    We're out of the loop with mission planner if we shut down the radio:

    "UAS that are designed to be completely autonomous, with no capability of pilot intervention, are not authorized in the national airspace system".

    Finally my initial hunch of this 'weak link' definition of airspace is in 8.2.14...

    UAVs are authorized in Class A, in C we need a transponder (!), in D, in E and very welcomed in G.

    UAVs are forbidden in B class.

    Interestingly, we're authorized in 'Oceanic Operations' with no restriction (8.3) - so let's go fly over the dolphins...

    Back to my first document then... And studying those classes. I still miss the commercial usage law and class of airspace linked to. Thx Seth.

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