The usage of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), otherwise known as drones, has gone from being a tool of the government, to a hobby for the common man. Once only used to drop bombs without harming organic flight operators, and surveillance purposes abroad, drones are readily becoming the popular choice for adult hobbyists. The line of sight coming from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is wider than previously thought. YouTube clients that are drone enthusiasts beware, the FAA is watching.
A drone hobbyist named Jayson Hanes, recently received a letter from a FAA inspector saying that his Tampa, Florida office was sent a complaint, stating that Hanes had used film from his drone flights for commercial use. The sender of said complaint offered up Hanes’s YouTube videos as evidence. Although the investigator determined that the YouTube videos were not used commercially, meaning by receiving payment for the video’s use, because Hanes never accepted any money.
YouTube is a website where those with an account, can upload videos they have shot for the entire world to see. Advertisements on YouTube are commonly linked to and from videos posted by account holders, and some receive payment for allowing advertising to be linked to their video. Hanes is one of many who decline any monetary gain. It was this factor alone that saved him from possible legal repercussions. If Hanes had ever accepted money for advertising purposes from Google, he would have been in hot water with the FAA.
While not all drone hobbyists are contacted by the FAA, Hanes was an exception because of the account settings on his YouTube account, and someone filing a complaint against him. The settings on the YouTube account were set to enable monetization, but Hanes had never accepted any money. This goes to show how serious the FAA is regarding UAV regulations, so when something as simple as a YouTube account setting can get someone in legal trouble, it serves as a warning that YouTube clients, that are drone enthusiasts need to beware. The FAA is watching for filmed drone footage uploaded to YouTube and is not afraid to prosecute.
Hanes was quoted as saying, “Flying drones is my art, but I do not make any kind of money from flying them.” Like many hobbyists similar to Hanes, including those who fly miniature helicopters and airplanes, the fun of flying their “grown up” toys is payment enough. It is for the entertainment of others that he puts footage on YouTube. For people who are enthralled with flying drones, the FAA has recently released regulations for flying the publicly owned UAV’s.
Though the new FAA guidelines on drone flight have not yet been passed into law, hobbyists feel they are reasonable. Rules such as only flying in daylight, keeping speeds below 100 miles per hour, and keeping the flying drone within the pilot’s sight seem like sensible conditions to follow. Another rule is that the drone must be kept at an altitude below 500 feet, due to the possibility of a mid-air collision occurring. The FAA also stated in the letter to Hanes, that it is within the FAA’s legal rights to pursue criminal action against anyone whose flight operations endanger the safety of the National Airspace System. Hanes claims to have had over 500 flights without any incidence of crashing or endangerment of any persons, animals, or the National Airspace System itself. He has the YouTube footage to prove it.
Since September 11, 2001, the rules regarding flight, be they public or private, have dramatically changed. Anyone who enjoys flying small, remote-controlled aerial vehicles, fall into the category of those who have had their rules altered. Look into the rules of the FAA and other organizations before taking up that remote control, because as Hanes found out via an official letter, YouTube clients that are drone enthusiasts need beware.
By Benjamin Johnson
Photo by Lee – Flickr License