What does the FAA consider "commercial"


Came across this from an FAA pilot exam training program:

"Question: May a recreational pilot act as pilot in command of an aircraft in furtherance of a business?
 ANSWER: No, it is not allowed.
Recreational pilots may not act as pilot in command of an aircraft that is used in furtherance of a business. There is no exception." (Bolding mine, DB)"


Note the phrase "furtherance of a business", that includes a plethora of things such as advertising, product demonstrations and even product placement or use in a movie or TV show.


While this is referring to private vs commercial manned aircraft, this could be applied (via precedent) to differentiate commercial vs recreational as it pertains to (s)UAS uses, pilots and vehicles.

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  • Correct, at least one dollar (or equivalent compensation) in "consideration" must be conveyed to constitute a contract in USA law.

    There is much more to the legal ramifications of "in pursuit of business", "for commercial purposes" and "for hire" that go far beyond contract law. Even "for profit" activities can occur when in fact one is "losing money" or no consideration has been made.

    It all boils down to this concept in USA Govt: People have the right to the unencumbered "pursuit of happiness" (recreational use) while the Govt has the right to glean funding from "private enterprise" (commercial activities).

    It is the gleaning (taxes, licenses etc.) that seems to be most important to all the Govt agencies involved in the entire UAS morass. Any belief that any of this has to do with "safety in the NAS" is IMHO extremely naive.

  • Arbitrarily, they define it as one dollar (or in kind exchange), changing hands. 


    I had an interesting conference call with folks from the FAA about the arbitrary change of policy Feb, 13, 2007

  • In the USA, amateur kites, balloons and rockets have their own regulations.

    Look at the rocket regulations if you want an idea of what the FAA could do with recreational sUAS.

    Actually, think that regulations based on size/weight and performance (speed) is a fair way to sort them out.

    Airport authority notifications based on altitude is a good idea IMHO too.


    I am sure the rocketry people hated getting regulations too. They seem to have survived without all being forced to join the National Association of Rocketry nor did the NAR get exemptions from the regulations.

    Note that the AMA also covers rocketry but didn't even get involved in the fray over these regs. They sure are fighting to keep turbines and 125 lb. aircraft unregulated though (a small minority of their own members).

  • As far as kites go, they are tethered to a point on the ground and not really considered aircraft for these discussions.  Googling around, it looks like the FAA starts worrying about kites once they get over 5 lbs or over 500'.  They are listed in the same section as moored balloons, free flying unmanned balloons, and unmanned rockets.  I didn't see any distinction being made between private and commercial use in those regulations, but I didn't Google it for very long...

  • The Festo Birds is fully legal to use in the USA for recreational, sport, hobby, education (etc.) purposes, as long as it is not used "to further a business", "paid for hire" etc.

    If no money or compensation is invloved and I can fly it to my heart's content in the USA. I can take it as high as I want and as far as I want according to the FAA. AC 91-57 covers it and the AC is "guidance" that has been ignored by the AMA (and many, many others) for 30 years.

  • For example, the Festo Bird is a violation of FAA, or would be were such excellent companies in the US; for some reason Festo is in another country. Thank God we're safe from the dual threat of innovation and new economy jobs.
  • What Duane said X10^2!
  • WEll, the FAA has let the AMA use 125 lb. turbine powered jets at hundreds of MPH without any regulations.

    The AMA is pushing for exemption for themselves from all FAA authority in any regualtions.

    A 125 lb jet flown by amaterus needs no regulation but a 2 lb low speed quadcopter taking pics for a landscaper is a threat to the populace?

    Safety is not the issue with the FAA, Tax on, and control of, anything haaving to do with "commerce" is a big deal to everyone in Govt though.

  • The FAR referred to is pertaining to pilots and pilot licensing. The aircraft itself is licensed in either a "normal"  or "experimental" category in the US: there's no specific "commercial" or "recreational" license for the aircraft itself. There are restrictive aircraft weight and power limitations when operating under a recreational license, but those restrictions are because of the pilot, not the aircraft. As Jeb pointed out the holder of a Private Pilot license can be paid for some flying costs that are "incidental" to a business trip (such as fuel, other operating expenses, and probably his "regular" hourly wage if the company pays employees for travel time) but he can't be paid specifically to be a pilot ("for hire"), which requires a commercial (or airline transport) certificate. 


    It's hard to tell what the FAA will do when UAV's become more common and are used for longer flights, but the "normal" and "experimental" categories could be used again for unmanned aircraft with some sort of operator (pilot) licensing perhaps similar to the ones the FCC uses: commercial operators with lots of training and difficult licensing tests for professional applications, and amateur operators with some basic experience and easier tests that at least insure the person isn't going to kill or injure people or property with the unmanned aircraft.

  • Exactly Jeb!

    And the way the FAA diferentiates between "recreational" and "commercial (in furtherance of a business)" will be critical in the application of current and future sUAS regulations.

    Already the AMA is being questioned about vendor demonstrations of RC products as "furtherance of a business" and thus "commercial" use rather than "recreational use". If the FAA wanted to they could make RC vendors apply for a COA for their "commercial sUAS".

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