charity work

Ask Drone Girl: Do I really need to get my Part 107 certification?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about hobby vs. commercial drone flying. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.
I was thinking about taking the Part 107, but was curious if I need to. I would really only fly for fun, but I have a friend that has an non-profit charity for a children’s hospital. I was considering taking a few pictures for him as a favor during a golf outing he has each year. I would not be paid and would be doing it as a hobby for fun and giving to him for a memory.
Is there any legality issues with that. If he put them online on Facebook or something would it be a problem?
-Jeff
Hey Jeff,
This is an excellent question, and I love how you are using drones for good — for charity work in fact! What an excellent cause.
As far as using a drone for charity work without Part 107, let’s consult the FAA’s words themselves.
Recreational or hobby UAS use is flying for enjoyment and not for work, business purposes, or for compensation or hire. In the FAA’s Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, the FAA relied on the ordinary, dictionary definition of these terms. UAS use for hobby is a “pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.” UAS use for recreation is “refreshment of strength and spirits after work; a means of refreshment or division.”
You are certainly doing this outside of your regular occupation, and you could definitely argue that your use of a drone for charity work does qualify as refreshing of your strengths and spirits.
If you are flying for recreational purposes, make sure that you are flying in accordance with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Public Law 112-95 Section 336), which means you need to fly within visual line-of-sight, give way to manned aircraft, provide prior notification to the airport and air traffic control tower, if one is present, when flying within 5 miles of an airport, and register your drone with the FAA.

If you receive any sort of compensation (yes, a free meal at the event can count as compensation), then you need to fly in accordance with the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107). That means you’ll have to get your remote pilot certificate or be under the direct supervision of someone who holds such a certificate.
It sounds to me like your situation qualifies as hobby use since you are giving the images to someone for free and posting them to Facebook. (If you posted to YouTube and collected ad revenue, then that would be a different story).
That being said, it is totally worth getting your Part 107 certification anyway. While it was definitely tough, passing this test is your first entry into the safest airspace in the world. And it feels awesome to have that certificate proving you have substantial knowledge of our airspace.
There are tons of great study courses that I will link to below this video including UAV Ground School (save $25 with coupon code DRONEGIRL) and Drone Pilot Ground School. I used Drone Pilot Ground School and passed on my first time!
Happy flying, and thanks for using your drone for good!

One thought on “Ask Drone Girl: Do I really need to get my Part 107 certification?”

  1. I retired from television production and worked in freelancing in news and commercial production. Started flying lessons at age 12 with my father who was an Army Air Corp Instructor pilot. I’m a licensed pilot, although I sold my airplane a few years ago and I have ZERO interest in flying a drone to make a buck (being retired, I don’t want the hassle of having clients again.)

    I do wish to contribute though in helping non-profit organizations near where I live if they need aerial video. And thus doing so keeps my soon to be 66 year old brain occupied.

    Back in 2015, early in my drone flying experience, I few my drones on my ranch here in Texas where I have a private FAA approved airport, and it’s even identified as a No Fly Zone on several of the apps I have on my iPhone. So prior to launching my drone, I contacted myself and gave myself permission to fly (please laugh here) and after about 6 months, I had a lot of experience flying around the ranch looking for my goats. I gained a lot of confidence and decided to help a longtime friend, who also is a licensed pilot (without compensation) who needed some aerial images of a plot of land he owns. Unlike me, he has a large wad of cash and wanted to hire a helicopter and commercial pilot so that I could get the images he needed.

    Here is where it gets “interesting…”

    His chunk of land is 3.5 miles from a B1 Base also having a mess of C-141C aircraft and this chunk of land is also within 4 miles of a regional airport. I did my homework prior to ever attempting to fly my drone and found phone numbers for the airfield manager at the airbase and I contacted the tower supervisor for the regional airport (days in advance of my drone flight.) The guy at the Air Force Base was delighted I contacted him and advised they were trying to formulate plans on how to work with drone pilots. I told him (and the regional supervisor at the civilian airport) I was a military veteran, I gave them my contact info and also stated I would have two hand-held aviation transceivers on my person, monitoring various frequencies (military isn’t available on regular civilian channels) and I would listen in on the local tower frequency, approach and departure channels. The guy at the air base simply asked when I would launch and to call him back after I had terminated my flight.
    All went exceedingly well with working with the civilian airport and the air base.

    Here is where it gets “sad”…

    All my previous flying had been conducted on my ranch on my grass runway (for taking off and landing) and that is where I always did my calibrations. I flew my drones in some pretty strong winds and my confidence level was high the morning of my flight to get images for my friend. I screwed up, not knowing that a large chunk of concrete where I was about to launch from had 3/4 inch and smaller rebar running all through it AND a metal rail was about 25 feet from where I did my calibration. I took off, the drone went up then soon did the “death plung” at about 15 feet off the ground. When I called the guy back at the air base to advise I was “finished”, he said that was fast.

    Call it “the school of hard knocks” (pardon the pun)… But it hasn’t diminished my desire to fly for fun, and help someone (or a non-profit) in the future. I have never done a calibration on concrete after that experience and if a non-profit calls me, I’ll ask them in advance about what the surface is where I might launch. And I won’t ask nor accept anything. My needs are simple now and I just want to stay in the sky for the “thrill” of it all.

    I’m glad the FAA hasn’t made this amateur-hobby stuff difficult for those of us who still might want to be involved in their communities or in other capacities in regard to flying a drone for fun (in even unusual places…)

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