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 Gary Mortimer on January 24, 2012 at 10:41pm

A timely reminder then to support RCAPA it might finally start sinking in over there that rules are coming.

Not as quickly as the military contractors whooped up before Christmas but they are coming. My old war cry STANAG 4586 is very much in the near future.

This is not really a surprise last year the film commission said similar what will happen now is people here and all over RC forums will say, not from my cold dead hands will they.... or what right... or if I do this.. lots and lots of people are beginning to say those drone guys are going to ruin model aircraft flying. Expect bad feeling towards us as a group.

Then it will die down and as a group American UAS enthusiasts will have done nothing yet again.

The regulations will land, and people will shout how can this have happened, nobody ever told us.  

The AMA is not on your side, they want to save large scale model aircraft and jets.

Comment by Alfred Riopel on January 24, 2012 at 11:09pm

I recall something about, if the aircrat or flying device is tethered, then it has not actually taken off. There was an occation I worked with and experimental helicopter designer, that tethered his prototypes for short test flight hops befor he got it inspected/registered. He said the FAA guy told him as long as it was tethered they had nothing to say about operating the machine.

Comment by Greg Fletcher on January 24, 2012 at 11:17pm

They are just pissed because the FAA all ready told them they can't do it. So screw every one else. Chasing a fleeing suspect with a 50 LB copter at night with a traffic cop at the controls is dangerous(well, it probably is), but hovering a nice quad for a for photos(and profit) on a sunny day of your choosing, well that's just a chance we can't take. "Won't someone please think of the children!!" ...Sorry ;)

Comment by Greg Fletcher on January 24, 2012 at 11:37pm

Alfred, I just got an idea (thanks) for a motorized fishing real thinggy that keeps slack out of the line without undue tension. Kind of like a legal tether. Oh wait, there's that commercial money making prohibition thing. Drats, we just can't win. I guess LA county just want's their cut, mmm?

Comment by Gary Mortimer on January 25, 2012 at 1:42am

Funnily enough I was fishing yesterday and thinking that you could have an autonomous lure...

Its not just California where you can't fly commercially its the entire country. It always has been, no idea where people ever got the idea that they could do this legally.

Again as I have often said, no one will come and find you but the second you drop something through Mrs Miggins greenhouse and she complains some insurance company will be after you. Now that the Police are really keen on sUAS over there many officers will have become aware of the regs you may not get away with their lack of knowledge any more.

Yes a tether does make it legal, and you can power your quad via it. Its not a new idea there is an Israeli one out there already, Looks like an air conditioning unit. 

Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on January 25, 2012 at 5:14am

I guess that the LAPD finally got tired of chasing real crime in Los Angeles and decided to tackle something easy. I am originally from LA.



Comment by Art on January 25, 2012 at 6:41am


From what little I understand about the issue, FAA has no jurisdiction in the area of tethered vehicles, so you are free to make money using such vehicles to your heart content.  Otherwise all the car dealerships flying helium balloons would be in big trouble.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on January 25, 2012 at 7:08am

Isn't it nonsensical that the law would allow amateurs flying shoddily built junk (tongue in cheek) over the heads of other people in a public park.  But it is illegal for a company to operate a professionally built and maintained aircraft, probably with insurance, over a property which has invited them and is paying for the service?

Thanks for the info about a tether.  I never heard that one.

So I can fly my heli and shoot some video for fun with APM with no problem.  But if I want to use the heli to make money, I have to tether it.  That's at least workable.  Kind of limiting on the type of shots you can get but....  at least it's something.

Out of curiousity, what would the law say if the bottom of the tether was attached to an ArduRover that was following the craft around?  :D

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on January 25, 2012 at 9:04am

So the LAPD is going to enforce federal laws?

Comment by Gary Mortimer on January 25, 2012 at 10:49am

STANAGs might come onto force because at the moment they are what on the table at ASTM. Although as the ASTM effort is also assuming the American glacial mode who knows what will happen.

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