FAA Grounds Local Aerial Photo Business



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.

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  • The FAA part is still unfolding-- I'm going to stay in touch with him about all that, and I'll report back.

  • So what was the outcome of the business element of it?  The workshop looks like it includes 'understanding how to build a profitable aerial photography business'.. but if the result of the FAA meeting is that you can't have a business.. then why include that?

    What was the outcome of the FAA meeting?  Is he grounded?  is there a resolution?

  • I had a nice phone conversation with Charles Eide today, he is the founder of EideCom, the subject of this news story.

    Charles had a meeting with the AMA this morning, regarding the FAA action, and he indicated that it was a very positive exchange. I was happy to hear this, as I had no idea where the AMA really stands on commercial use when push comes to shove.

    Apparently this story has taken off, and many media outlets have contacted Eide about this FAA grounding and the business in general. In response to all this, Eide is pushing forward and organizing a "RC Aerial Photo Business and Safety Training" workshop May 17-19 in Minneapolis. 

    Things are moving folks!

  • Email?  no way.. Ask for a printed document in the mail... which coming from a field office would be a no brainer and take 1 day to get there.  If they can't formulize what their demands are and why you should follow them then NO WAY... plus you can't really take a 'phone call' to a lawyer and fight it.

  • I think they should have asked for an email. Otherwise it could be the competition just getting you to stop work. It isn't rude to ask: "Can you shoot me an email with this request please?". 

  • This is what happens to people when you start a business that makes money doing something that's not permitted. Sure they can operate safely but this is a great example of why the FAA needs to have some type of license. Operating in a class B airspace there are rules that everyone needs to follow, it's busy with a lot of commercial traffic. I agree, take it to the courts anything to speed up the FAA would be great. Until then everyone reading this take this as a lesson. Do you want to start a business that currently can be shut down with one phone call? It only takes one guy driving by to see what you are doing and call the FAA.
  • Moderator

    Yep +1 masts have a stack of uses and are persistent.

  • 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.

  • Moderator

    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.

  • 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.

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