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 MarioCoastie on January 26, 2012 at 7:21pm

There was a very good point stated earlier. The only entity that can enforce a Federal Law is a Federal Law Enforcement Officer. On the opposite end, a Federal Law Enforcement Officer cannot enforce any law other than Federal Law.

Comment by Ellison Chan on January 26, 2012 at 7:31pm

I don't think the FAA actually has law enforcement officers.  They either rely on the FBI, or local enforcement to do the arrests.

Caleb, even non-profits are considered commercial.  They just don't make a profit from their commercial activities.  The FAA rules delineate between hobby, and commercial.  And, I don't think you can characterize anyone in this forum as sheeple. 

Comment by Sgt Ric on January 26, 2012 at 7:40pm
Exactly... A non-profit is NOT recreational!
@Caleb, Your idea about using a not-for-profit is nonsence.
Comment by Greg Fletcher on January 26, 2012 at 8:35pm

I heard on  the radio today a quick story from ABC news, that they have at the beginning of every hour, this story and they mentioned "pilot-less drones the size of a basket ball " taking real high end real estate photos. They ended with "the LAPD are concerned for the real air traffic. What a load a sh#t this is. What the LAPD is working for the FAA now? More likely some others, mmmmm, who could that be?

Comment by corey on January 27, 2012 at 12:45pm

So if a tethered blimp is a legal platform for commercial aerial photography, would a tethered quad be legal as well?

Comment by Ellison Chan on January 27, 2012 at 12:50pm

Big difference between a blimp and a drone is that one has a tendency to stay up in the air, and the other has a tendency to fall to the ground.  You guess which one it is. ;-)

And the FAA has specific rules for tethered balloons, which is what I would assume the blimp would be considered.

Comment by Lebdog on January 27, 2012 at 1:10pm

What's the real reason for this (constitution aside, a law has never been made to protect the people THE LAW by Bastiat)?
#1, because the MOB run LA unions want the exclusive on filming always
#2, because the police state knows personal drones can be used to film their illegal activities and molestation of the constitution and civil rights.
I honestly do not believe safety is a concern, nor that they are worried about drones crashing in to peoples houses...

I was at a protest taking video.  All of the sudden the paramilitary riot squad showed up where they, "kettled" myself and other media in to the protest (*as we were on the outside watching) telling us that it's ok and that they would walk us out.  After about a half hour and the police closing in, people began to not trust the police.  I saw an opportunity to sneak through the riot line with a cameraman and did so.  All other media and outside spectators were arrested with the protestors.  Not only were they arrested, but they all got at least a 2000 dollar bail and DNA swabbed by homeland security and added to their terrorist watch lists...
My point and why I am wide awake and more than a little suspect lately, is that my personal experience is the police will lie to you these days...  Sad state of things, I grew up thinking police followed the golden rule, not anymore, they work for the machine and don't care about anything but their paycheck or they would resist too! 

Comment by Lebdog on January 27, 2012 at 1:13pm

PS:  Then don't start a non-profit, simply only take donations for flying like the weed clinics in LA do.  That's fire with fire and 100% legal.  Plus, I would never film someone's property unless the owner, not some real estate clown paid me.  My pet peeves in the world are lawyers, politicians & real estate agents.  I see a common disingenuity pervasive to those trades! 

Comment by Denny Rowland on January 28, 2012 at 10:01am

I think it is time to start making proposals to the legislators to define a difference between small quad copters that have full rotor protection and have a degree of safety built into the design and are below say 3 kilo AUW.and will stay below say 300 feet.  As against these stupidly overweight and generally unreliable Oktokopters that try to lift payloads that could be potentially harmful.

Comment by Denny Rowland on January 28, 2012 at 10:12am

I think the trouble has been stirred up by lame Cessna operators who have lost business to UAV start-ups. In the UK the CAA make a lot of money farting about with paperwork. They have a form for everything and a fee to go with it. The AOC used to cost me about 20 K per year just to take photography yet I could tow banners with just a ops. manual. Simply because they were not enough banner towers around for them to make money out of it. 


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