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Drones (UAVs) for Aerial Photography Illegal



  • Commercial operators permit required when using a drone for commercial purposes

  • Aerial photography is a commercial purpose

  • Very few (less than 30) permits have been issued and only a few have been issued to photographers to use drones

  • Using drones for commercial purposes without permission from the federal aviation administration is illegal.

  • Do not support illegal drone photographers operating without a permit.

  • SkySnap Aerial Photography operates all of our photography flight in accordance with FAA regulations

    As you search for aerial photographs of your location you will see multiple aerial photographers that use drones or unmanned aerial vehicles. These photographers will quote you rock bottom prices for pictures of your location saying that they can offer the price because of their use of drones. The bottom line is that using drones for commercial purposes without permission from the federal aviation administration is illegal. The federal aviation administration has only issued a handful of exemptions to companies that allow them to use drones from commercial purposes.  Aerial photography is consider a commercial purpose in the eyes of the federal aviation administration.


    The photographer that is telling you they will use drones to photograph your location is most likely operating illegally. So before you decided to go with the lowest price, ask yourself, “Do I want to support a business that is operating illegally and hurting other business that are operating under the law.” The business may be one of the very few(less than 20) business that are allowed to operate a drone but it is very unlikely. If your photographer tells you that they will use a drone always ask if they have a commercial drone operator’s permit.


    A few responses that you will receive by the drone photographer include:

“I don’t need a permit because you don’t pay for the pictures, your pay for the consulting cost.”

    -This statement is false. The federal aviation administration follow the duck rule as to a commercial operator.  If it looks like duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. If the business takes your money with a promise to provide an aerial photo and then provides an aerial photo they are an aerial photographer and if they used the drone then they need a permit for that drone.

“I don’t need a permit because I operate under 400ft above the ground.”                                                           

    -The Federal Aviation Administration controls all airspace and to operate a drone commercially in it a person or business needs a permit. Even if the drone is operated below 400 feet, 3 miles from an airport, and away from populated areas as a model airplane a permit is still needed because the drone is being operated commercially.


    For more information about the Federal Aviation Administration’s rulings and interpretations of drone regulations see the links below

    To find out more about SkySnap Aerial Photography’s wide range of local and nationwide photography service click the contact link at the top of the page.


Remember, always use a professional aerial photographer that operates under the rules of the FAA.  




    Are Quadcopters Legal? (n.d.). Retrieved January 7, 2015, from

    Busting Myths about the FAA and Unmanned Aircraft. (n.d.). Retrieved January 7, 2015, from

    Unmanned Aircraft Systems. (n.d.). Retrieved January 7, 2015, from

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