FAA Grounds Local Aerial Photo Business

(VIDEO LINK)

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. (WCCO) – Charles Eide and Mike Danielson have been flying radio controlled aircraft since they little kids growing up in the same neighborhood.

As adults they formed a business, sharing a love of video production and photography.

Soon, they discovered their hobby could merge with their business, which took a huge leap when they began taking on aerial photographic work.

By mounting stabilized cameras onto the bellies of the drone aircraft, Eide and Danielson can offer customers a bird’s-eye view of anything from construction sites, to city attractions, to real estate listings.

“It helps sell houses, which is really in my opinion a huge economic impact in the Twin Cities — helps houses move faster,” Eide said.

Business was booming, until a call came from the Minneapolis office of the Federal Aviation Administration. They were simply told to ground their commercial use of the aircraft. Turns out, current regulations don’t allow unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes.

In fact, their use is strictly prohibited from operating in what the FAA defines as “Class B” airspace. That’s found in densely populated areas around key airport traffic routes, most often the airspace surrounding the busiest airports with a high volume of commercial air traffic.

Eide says he understands the need for safety regulations, but argues that his company has its own flight safety protocols. They rarely fly more than 200 feet above the ground and will never operate near airports.

“What we’re doing is low-range stuff to show off the real estate market and features in a house or property,” Danielson said.

The FAA says the urban airspace demands strict safety restrictions. Eide understands, but argues with tens of thousands of dollars invested in radio controlled aircraft, flying safely is job No. 1.

“I agree that there should be regulation on this stuff because there are more and more hands touching this stuff,” Eide said. “However, we need to work together here.”

The duo wants to work with the FAA over this. The current rules are clear, but the FAA is going to look at these rules on Friday.

Views: 3591

Comment by Greg McHugh on March 15, 2013 at 11:04am

It appears that there is not much consistency within the FAA on this. Harry Arnold is flying in the Detroit area doing the same type of commercial activity with no problem with the FAA. Both the FAA and Homeland Security are aware of his business and he coordinates with them on some missions including aerial surveillance for fires on Devil's Night. This is not an illegal activity but all parts of the FAA do not seem to be on the same page regarding this. Here is a link to a story in the Detroit Free Press on Harry Arnold's business in Detroit...

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013303070112

He has also been on the local news describing his activities...

http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/21550806/let-it-rip-the-drone-debate

Hopefully the FAA in Minneapolis will come to the same conclusion as the FAA in Detroit and allow this activity...

Comment by Joshua Johnson on March 15, 2013 at 12:06pm

Thank you so much for sharing this Matt!! I live 2-4 Minutes away from Brooklyn Park and watch Wcco every day. 

Comment by Leszek Pawlowicz on March 15, 2013 at 12:41pm

If I were these guys, I would point the FAA to section 323 of the 2012 FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act:

SEC. 323. SPECIAL RULES FOR CERTAIN UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS.

(a) In General- Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall determine if certain unmanned aircraft systems may operate safely in the national airspace system. The Secretary may make such determination before completion of the plan and rulemaking required by section 322 of this Act or the guidance required by section 324 of this Act.

(b) Assessment of Unmanned Aircraft Systems- In making the determination under subsection (a), the Secretary shall determine, at a minimum--

(1) which types of unmanned aircraft systems, if any, as a result of their size, weight, speed, operational capability, proximity to airports and population areas, and operation within visual line-of-sight do not create a hazard to users of the national airspace system or the public or pose a threat to national security; and

(2) whether a certificate of waiver, certificate of authorization, or airworthiness certification under section 44704 of title 49, United States Code, is required for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems identified under paragraph (1).

(c) Requirements for Safe Operation- If the Secretary determines under this section that certain unmanned aircraft systems may operate safely in the national airspace system, the Secretary shall establish requirements for the safe operation of such aircraft systems in the national airspace system.

Rules which could (and should) have allowed this kind of aerial photography were supposed to have been released last August, a deadline the FAA not only missed, but completely ignores. If they sent this to their Congressman/Senators, they might actual get some action.

Comment by LanMark on March 15, 2013 at 12:56pm

Take the FAA to court... I will chip in money for this business's defense.  This is NEVER going to get sorted out until someone takes this matter of FAA rules to court and they lay out a common law on this matter.   Chances are the FAA will just sit on this and sit on this with large players keeping the smaller guys out of the air.

Personally these guys aren't doing much more than what you can do with a large telescoping pole.. which they make 60+ footers now.

Comment by Peter Meister on March 15, 2013 at 1:13pm

Yes, take them to court. I as well will back the litigation on this one as well. Lets get this cleared up - or else this will become a real problem for small businesses trying to start out in this area of UAV use.

Comment by LanMark on March 15, 2013 at 1:47pm

wait a second.. a phone call?   I would have told them to send paper work in the format of some sort of legal cease and desist letter or some other formal document... not a f-ing phone call.

I am contacting EideCom Inc... and voicing my support to fight it.. since I am not sure the FAA even has legal ground to stand on especially if you are flying above privately owned property there may be other rights that you are granted that the FAA can't jump in.. since you have a legal right as a property owner to enjoy the air space above your property.. not to mention other legal gounds..  so I really don't think the FAA has the authority.. what law are you breaking?  LAW?

Comment by Greg on March 15, 2013 at 9:58pm
Very sad to see this. I feel for the business operators who still have to support their families now. Its happening in different countries too where the local aviation authorities believe their jurisdiction extends to the air immediately around your house or business. No full size plane or helicopter is normally allowed to fly at the line of sight low levels a small model is taking real estate photos from in densely populated areas.

I agree the only way the fix this is through due legal process and also it looks like if this is going to have impact on small business and their suppliers then it has political ramifications too. Voters do no like governments and their agencies which ultimately cause higher unemployment levels. So time to get the general public on side so they can take a sympathetic side. Its not going to be an easy road.
Comment by Mark Kellogg on March 16, 2013 at 12:12am

I agree it is good news.  Seems like it would be a good topic at the The Small Unmanned Systems Business Expo In SF this summer.  Small businesses obviously don't have large lobby budgets (if any...), but with some organization and support from the community at large there could be some pressure applied.  The entire subject is going to be much more evident over the next months.


Moderator
Comment by Gary Mortimer on March 16, 2013 at 1:35am

Well its certainly going to be in the mix, we have invited the UAPO fingers crossed they will come. To demonstrate to others that there is a large group waiting in the wings is part of the reason for running it. Hopefully the Friday afternoon can have a bring and fly/float/drive element to it. Patrick has secured an indoor flying area should it be raining. Let's get some serious chats done and some serious fun. 

Hopefully by early next week susbexpo.com will be finished properly it's there but fairly empty at the minute.

Comment by Mauricio on March 16, 2013 at 6:02am

They could have use telescopic masts since the very beginning for most of their operations and use the drone only when really needed.....  it is proven that 85 - 90 % of the jobs for Real estate are achieved in altitudes from 35 - 45 ft, doable with a mast. 

Last year one of my customers who bought from me a 60ft telescopic mast here in Ontario (I manufacture them), shot 250 properties, with that mast alone. If he charged average of $250 - $300 each property you can do your math to calculate the return.

AND: didn't required insurance, SFOCs, no maintenance, it is cheaper than a drone, don't crash, ... and no FAA impartial rules.

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