Will the U.S.’s New (Part 107) Pilot Certification Accelerate Commercial Growth?

FAA testing and certification for small UAS remote pilot certificates begins in earnest this month, but does that mean the commercial drone industry will see rapid growth?


THE FACTS: Beginning August 29, 2016, the new small UAS Rule for commercial drone operations in the U.S. takes effect.  One very important change is that operators will now have to obtain a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating. Under the new rule—also known as Part 107—the person actually flying the drone must have this certificate, or be directly supervised by someone who has one. In advance, the FAA has published a variety of documents to assist businesses seeking to be compliant with the new regulation. You can find an article with references to those documents here.

WHAT’S COOL AND WHAT’S NOT:  The new rule (and the new certification process) marks a complete shift in the way the FAA permits commercial drone operations in the National Airspace System (NAS). Under the old approach, known as Section 333 Exemption, companies or individuals could apply for an airworthiness certificate exemption and then the FAA would grant them on a case-by-case basis. Commercial operations rules also required the pilot-in-command of drone operations to have at least a sport pilot’s license.  At last count (8/19/2016), 5,542 petitions had been granted. The process was intended to provide safe and legal entry into the NAS, thus discouraging illegal operations and improving safety. It was anticipated that this activity would result in significant economic benefits.

The point here is Section 333s were granted to the business operators of the aircraft–not the pilots themselves. The new rule is pretty much the opposite.  It is a pilot-based certification that switches the responsibility from a business entity to a person.

THE RUB:  In March 2016, the FAA released its annual Aerospace Forecast Report Fiscal Years 2016 to 2036, which cites potential sales of more than 600,000 commercial small UAS requiring registration, growing to 2.7 million by 2020. This forecast was developed in conjunction with the Teal Group Corporation. They segment the commercial market into industrial inspection, real estate / aerial photography, agriculture, insurance, and government with industrial inspection taking the bulk of the market at 42%.

But as I have written in Diversity and Hype in Commercial Drone Market Forecasts, Teal’s forecast is inflated and out of touch–as are a lot of others. We currently track 41 different forecasts. The trouble is none take into account existing market trends or the economic force that a lower barrier to entry will have on pricing of drone-based business services. To put this disconnect into perspective, one only need look at other related forecasts.  For example, the revenue of photography services in United States in 2020 is expected to be about $6.7 billion. Portrait studios account for about 70% of industry revenue; commercial photography for about 30% of that. That means commercial photography is only a $2 billion market.  How we get from there to PwC’s prediction that $127.3 billion of current business services and labor will be replaced by drone-powered solutions is baffling to say the least.

BOTTOM LINE: Our survey data going back to 2014 and even our most recent report tells us that the film/photo/video market is–and will probably always be–the largest commercial drone market segment. Neither Teal nor PwC forecasts account for the full potential of drones in that segment, nor do they incorporate any first-hand knowledge from those who’ve already operate in that segment.  In contrast, I have heard from scores of photographers and videographers who operate their small UAS for business without regard to legality. Most never applied for a Section 333 because of the stringent pilot license requirement. Most have been waiting for this day to arrive so they can get certified and “come out of the shadows” to operate legitimately. Most will never do industrial inspections, or agriculture, or any of the other business services being predicted for commercial drones.

This article says 3,351 people have already signed up with the FAA to have their aviation knowledge tested on the first day possible. I predict most of these are either film/photo/video operators who were granted Section 333s and never had a pilot available to them or those operating in the shadows. I’m just not convinced that means big money for the industry yet. We’ll see what happens, but one thing is for sure—we’ll see a lot of very small businesses (read: photographers and videographers) now openly advertise their aerial services.


Norwegian Teenager’s Aerial Photography Puts Your Vacation Snaps to Shame

As countries go, Norway’s pretty good isn’t it? Statistically it’s one of the happiest nations in the world, which is no surprise when you consider the incredible scenery locals enjoy at every turn. How can you be miserable with mountains like that? As you might expect, all that incredible scenery makes it a great place for aerial photographers. And one pilot in particular is beginning to make a name for himself in the world of drone photography.

Mathias Haughom is also just 17. But that hasn’t stopped him from amassing a strong online following on social media, where his drone photography exhibiting the best of Norway’s scenery has well and truly gone viral.

Speaking to UK newspaper The Daily TelegraphHaughom said, “My whole life I have loved Norwegian nature, but it was only when I started making drone films that I understood how special it is compared to other places and countries in the world.”

But it seems as though his fellow Norwegians have got used to the views and spectacular landscapes. “The response I have got abroad has been much bigger than the response from my Norwegian mates,” says Haughom. “I find it quite funny and inspiring. It means that Norwegian nature has big potential.”

Haughom uses a DJI Phantom 3 Pro to get his shots, which gives a little hope to all of us. Even without the top of the range gear his footage is something special. Much of his filming takes place around Lofoten, a cluster of picturesque islands just off Norway’s western coastline.

According to the Telegraph, Haughom, has already put pen to paper and signed a deal with a photography licencing and distribution agency, which we suppose isn’t surprising given what he’s achieved so far at such a young age. And as for the future? He said: “I would like to visit the poles someday. Filming big ice mountains sounds fantastic.”

Sounds good to us.


FAA publishes guidance and info in advance of Part 107 taking effect

The new small UAS Rule (Part 107) takes effect on August 29th. The FAA has published a variety of documents to assist businesses seeking to be in compliance with the new regulation. Of especial interest may be the FAA’s Knowledge Test Prep.

from the FAA

A new world of opportunities for drone operators opens next week on August 29 when the new small drone rule for non-hobbyists becomes effective. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wants to make sure you have the information you’ll need to take advantage of those opportunities.

Aeronautical Knowledge Test

One very important step you have to take is to obtain your remote pilot certificate. Under the new rule—also known as Part 107—the person actually flying a drone must have a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, or be directly supervised by someone with such a certificate.

To qualify for the certificate, you must either pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center or have an existing non-student Part 61 pilot certificate. If you are qualifying under the latter provision, you must have completed a flight review in the previous 24 months and must take an FAA UAS online training course. The Transportation Security Administration will conduct a security background check of all remote pilot applications prior to issuance of a certificate.

The FAA has posted extensive materials, including a test guide and sample questions, to help you prepare for the knowledge test. You can review the materials by clicking on the “Knowledge Test Prep Part 107” button at www.faa.gov/uas.

You also can watch a short video about the knowledge test:

Related Information from the FAA:

Top Resources to Improve Your Aerial Photography

For many drone enthusiasts, a passion for aerial photography is what got them into flying in the first place. For the rest, it’s an inevitable result of being able to attach a camera to a UAV.

But whether you’re shooting for fun or using a drone for business reasons, improving the quality of the end result is something many pilots struggle to do. And to be honest, it can be tough to know what exactly you’re doing wrong and how things can be improved.

To try and give you and your shots more clarity, we’ve put together a definitive list of resources you might want to check out to improve your aerial photography. From PDFs to video tutorials, online courses and ‘How-To’ guides, there’s plenty out there if you look hard enough. To save you time and get you up in the air as quickly as possible, we’ve done the searching for you. Feel free to add your own resources in the comments below.

3DR’s Aerial Photography eBooks

3DR resources for drone pilots aerial photography


Popular manufacturer 3DR has put together a couple of handy eBooks for pilots eager to improve their photography skills. The latest, titled ‘Getting serious about aerial photography‘, includes interviews with professional pilots and photographers, tips on post-processing, a filter guide, and plenty of inspiration for aspiring pilots.

If you want to receive these free eBooks in future, click on the link above and give 3DR your email address as part of the download process. It’s worth it. 3DR’s eBooks aren’t just for Solo pilots, but if you do fly with 3DR, check out this extensive webinar video to make the most of your flights.

The eBooks don’t begin and end with 3DR. If you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is, there are books you can buy on setting up your own drone business, as well as eBooks on improving your aerial videography.

Online Video Tutorials

There are plenty of video tutorials out there for improving your drone photography. However, the majority of these are produced by different manufacturers and only offer tips on their specific drones. These are obviously useful if it’s your drone of choice, so check out the Youtube channels of DJI, 3DR, Yuneec, and Parrot – just to name a few.

For those looking for more general aerial photography tips, check out this video, from Tuts plus, which offers a few pointers you may not have come across before.

Aerial Videography Guides

UAV Coach screen shot

Our friends at UAV Coach have put together a pretty comprehensive guide on aerial videography, with 17 tips on how to get started and perfect your shots. If you want to take things to the next level, they are launching an

If you want to take things to the next level, they are launching an online aerial cinematography course later this month. The course has been put together by two experienced, professional videographers, and with a 30-day money back guarantee, is well worth checking out.

Popular drone forums

Sometimes the best way to learn new skills and techniques is to discuss successes and failures with like-minded peers. There are plenty of forums where this can be done in the world of drone photography.

DIY Drones has a large forum with plenty of active contributors, and you may well find that some of your burning questions have already been answered. Elsewhere, you can find well-informed discussions on aerial photography on the Dronestagram forum, as well as plenty of images to inspire your next flight. Alternatively, check out the DroneFlyers forum, where there are plenty of live conversations across topics from photography software to specific drone models.


NZ: Pizza UAV are go! Domino’s gets drone delivery OK

Retail, Innovation and Manufacturing reporter for the NZ Herald

flying pizza looks to be on its way new zealand as dominos demos drone delivery flirtey

Aerial pizza delivery may sound futuristic but Domino’s has been given the green light to test New Zealand pizza delivery via drones.

The fast food chain has partnered with drone business Flirtey to launch the first commercial drone delivery service in the world, starting later this year.

Domino’s Group chief executive and managing director, Don Meij said the company had been investigating innovative and new delivery methods as business had grown.

This included looking at robotic delivery, which the government is still considering.

Details around where the trial would be held have been kept under wraps – however Domino’s said it would use drone delivery alongside its usual delivery methods – and only where it would be faster than the use of a car or scooter.

It will offer drone delivery specials at the launch of the trial with plans to extend the dimensions, weight and distance of the deliveries throughout the trial, based on results and customer feedback.

The company will not offer the full range of its products for drone delivery – and only those customers within a certain distance from a store will be served from the air.

“With the increased number of deliveries we make each year, we were faced with the challenge of ensuring our delivery times continue to decrease and that we strive to offer our customers new and progressive ways of ordering from us,” Meij said.

“Research into different delivery methods led us to Flirtey. Their success within the airborne delivery space has been impressive and it’s something we have wanted to offer our customers,” he said.

New aviation rules which came into force on August 1 last year allowing and control the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) for recreational and commercial purposes in New Zealand.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the government was continuing to review the laws to ensure New Zealand was at the forefront of the industry.

“As Transport Minister I have been actively promoting New Zealand as a test bed for new transport technology trials,” Bridges said. “Our enabling laws and regulation means we have the ideal environment to trial all forms of technology.”

“The trial is also a valuable opportunity for the Civil Aviation Authority, who are making sure that appropriate safety precautions are taken,” he said.

According to Meij, the company had been investigating delivery options for a while, saying that it didn’t make sense to have a two tonne machine delivering a two kilogram order.

He said the use of drones offered a faster and safer option as well as removing barriers such as traffic and distance, meaning they could deliver further afield and faster in urban areas.

“Domino’s is all about providing customers with choice and making customer’s lives easier,” Meij said. “Adding innovation such as drone deliveries means customers can experience cutting-edge technology and the convenience of having their Supreme pizza delivered via air to their door. This is the future.”

If it is successful the company plans to extend the delivery method to six other markets – Australia, Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Japan and Germany.

NZ Herald

Recruiting pilots – Soaring Sky


Soaring Sky, a Ft. Myers-based commercial drone company has begun recruiting pilots across the nation to fill growing demand for commercial drone services. Their efforts represent the continued growth of the drone industry, and a huge opportunity for pilots seeking entry into the field.


“For the last two years Soaring Sky has worked extremely hard to become the leader in commercial drone services,” said Soaring Sky Co‐Founder, Ryan Cowell. “The release of Part 107 has provided us with an opportunity to soar to new levels and continue to grow our team nationwide.”

Providing services in surveying, mapping, inspections, aerial cinematography, and education, Soaring Sky will be offering full-time employment opportunities to drone pilots across the U.S. Further, the organisation is capitalising on newly released federal regulations and will be one of the only commercial drone companies to be offering a salaried employment in the industry.

They are riding the crest of the new technology wave. Their standards for pilots, however, remain high as their services often require complex flight manoeuvres and advanced piloting skill.

“We look forward to innovating, creating, and inspiring this new era of aviation,” said Cowell.

To begin the application process, pilots can visit the Soaring Sky webpage available here.

Recruiting pilots – Soaring Sky

Expert: New Part 107 UAS operators shouldn’t overlook insurance

By Patrick C. Miller | August 18, 2016

  • With many UAS businesses expected to start up under Part 107 later this month, new commercial drone operators should check to see if they have proper insurance coverage.

Those who expect to get into the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) business under the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Part 107 small UAS rule that goes into effect Aug. 29 shouldn’t overlook insuring their operations.

Shawn Ram, western regional manager for Crystal & Company in California—a strategic risk and insurance advisory firm with more than 80 years of experience—said there are four primary areas in which UAS businesses need to manage risks through insurance: bodily injury, property damage, technology failure and privacy.

With foundations in technology and aviation, Ram said it was logical for Crystal & Company to enter the realm of UAS insurance.

“We are very focused in the technology arena around risks that are generally difficult to manage,” Ram said. “That allows us to be more creative and sophisticated. We broker insurance policies for our clients, and drones certainly qualify under that standard.”

Ram has advice for those already in the UAS business or who plan to get into it once Part 107 takes effect.

“Most believe that their general business insurance policies will cover drones or bodily injury or property damages that come as a result of using drones,” he noted. “Unfortunately, most policies exclude anything aviation related. Many drone companies think they’re covered when, in reality, they’re not.”

Ram noted that even small UAS can cause a great deal of damage to property and hurt people when they crash or go out of control.

“Ensure that you take the proper protocols necessary to avoid bodily injury or property damage,” he said. “It is possible to leverage insurance policies to hedge those risks.”

Because most drone businesses are based on gathering and transmitting timely information, the loss of data due to hardware failure or software errors can cause potential financial loss, Ram cautioned. Privacy issues can arise when drones stray from intended flight paths or inadvertently capture data or images, he said.

“The first thing I would do is get your contracts right,” Ram advised new UAS operators. “Address the risks that you have so you can appropriately protect your company in the event that things go south. Be conscious of safety protocols and unintended consequences. Be prudent with insurance by backstopping your company financially. Insurance is cheap capital in terms of insuring a business against meaningful risks.”

Although not directly affected by Part 107, recreational drone pilots should review their homeowner’s policies to see if they are covered, Ram suggested.

“I’ve seen some policies that exclude anything aviation-related,” he explained. “I’ve seen other policies use the term ‘unmanned aircraft’ in granting coverage to anything but piloted private aircraft. I’ve seen policies that don’t say anything about it. I think it would be prudent to look at your homeowner’s policy and evaluate the risks.”

Ram said another group of drone pilots potentially at risk are those who don’t fly UAS as part of a business, but accept payment for photos or videos they shoot for others.

According to Ram, evolving FAA regulations and a lack of data that underwriters use to statistically evaluate risk has caused many insurance carriers to avoid offering policies covering UAS.

“There is still limited information regarding how individuals or corporations will use drones and the risks associated with them,” he explained. “Over time, that data will increase and the policies will become more specific and more tailored for the risks at hand.”


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