Category Archives: Q&A

I’m flying a drone for “X” reason, but I’m not getting paid! Do I still need a license?

“…I’m flying a drone as a volunteer to take pictures for a non-profit.”

“…I’m flying a drone in an outdoor racing competition, and there are prizes involved.”

“…I’m flying a drone to take pictures of my friend’s house, which I’m giving to her for free, but she is going to use them in the marketing materials to sell her house.”

“Do I need a license?”

So you’re flying a drone, and aren’t sure if it’s a hobby or commercial use case. And, if the latter, you’re not sure if you need a license?

I get a LOT of questions from people who walk the “grey area” line about whether they need a Remote Pilot Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration, under Part 107.

The FAA clearly states that anyone who is flying a drone for business purposes needs to have a license, which requires passing a test.

The thing that is less clear? What really dictates a “business purpose.” Many drone flights, such as those done as a volunteer or for compensation that isn’t in the form of money, fall into a grey area, and many wonder if they really need to have a license.

“Using a sUAS to take photographs for your own personal use would be considered recreational,” according to the FAA’s website. “Using the same device to take photographs or videos for compensation or sale to another individual would be considered a commercial operation.”

But is receiving a trophy or free drone for winning an FPV race considered compensation? Is a non-profit using photos that were donated to them still considered commercial? There are lots of grey areas here.

Let me preface this by saying the information below is NOT legal advice. Please contact an attorney to get legal advice — but I can weigh in.

First, you should get a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate anyway.  Passing this test is your first entry into U.S. airspace — the safest airspace in the world. Plus, many insurance providers require a Part 107 license, and often companies won’t hire you to do a drone job for them if you are unlicensed. Continue reading I’m flying a drone for “X” reason, but I’m not getting paid! Do I still need a license?

Drone pilot directory search: Where can I find a drone pilot for hire?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about finding a licensed drone operator in your area to do some sort of job for you. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I was wondering if you know a link to who has a Part 107 license by state? Where can I hire a licensed drone pilot? How do I find other licensed drone pilots in my area?

I get asked about the existence of a drone pilot directory quite often. While the Federal Aviation Administration maintains a directory of all pilots with a Remote Pilot Certificate, the database is not searchable by state or area. The only real way to use it is to type a pilot’s name and confirm whether or not they have a license.

But what if you want to find a list of pilots in your area? What if you want a directory of pilots with  a certain skillset — mapping, real estate, etc.?

There are dozens of websites that serve as a drone pilot directory. The websites are primarily self-reported, so do your own research to find if that pilot is legitimate (and of course, check the FAA’s website to make sure they really do have a license before hiring them for a job).

And with so many websites, it can be hard to know where to look. Some of my favorites include DroneBaseDroneDeploy Mapping DirectorySkytangoUplift and UpSonder.  Continue reading Drone pilot directory search: Where can I find a drone pilot for hire?

Which racing drone propellers are the best? Gemfan? DAL? Something else?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about upgrading your racing drone propellers. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I have a Kingdowin & Hitec 280’s quad racers, and would like to change the blades to nylon props.  What do you suggest for these 2 prop quads?  I was looking at GemFan & DALs.

Hey there!

I reached out to some of the world’s top drone racers to get you a better answer than I ever could (when it comes to drone racing, I’m a total novice).

First, you need to decide what more you want out of your propellers. Do you need more thrust? Are you a racer? Do you prefer freestyle?

#Kwads & #Braap #Braap all day long! Such a fun day 😀 Met up with the Santa Cruz FPV crew, and found this little custom built miniature 3inch #Alien! It’s friggin adorable. Huge shout out to the local crew for holding it down and throwing such a great event- was fun not organizing for once and getting to show my #3D moves off. Then over to meetup with the Motorcycles & Misfits at the Re-Cycle Garage garage to do a bit of maintenance on the Shadow, its slowly running better and better- just needs a little TLC after sitting for a couple years. Check out their podcast, it’s one of the most legit and funny #motorcycle #podcasts on the net! Psssss, @genstattu… Your high powered drone batteries might work great for some custom motorcycles hint-hint 😉 #AirVuz #Tattu #Dronehart #Drones #FPV #WorldsCollide #RotorRiot #GoPro #GemFan #BeeRotor

A post shared by Zoe FPV (@zoefpv) on

From there, my friend and drone racing pro Zoe Stumbaugh put together an extremely thorough guide for you (Zoe runs the site HexinAir. Check it out!):

DAL 5045 Cyclones: These are durable, decently efficient, and a good mix of top end speed and low end “grip/torque” in the air.

“I don’t replace broken props- just heavily damaged ones,” Stumbaugh said. “They’re an incredibly durable material mix. You could even call them the original indestructible prop.” Continue reading Which racing drone propellers are the best? Gemfan? DAL? Something else?

Can I take my drone through TSA in my carry-on baggage?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about taking your drone through TSA in your checked baggage. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I’m going to Maui in three weeks, and I would love to bring my GoPro Drone.  I was wondering if you know the regulation at SFO regards to having drone in my carry-on.   Any tips in Maui? What spots are good to fly drones at? 

I’m jealous you’re heading to Maui! And yes, it is totally okay to take a drone through a U.S. airport. It’s clearly written on the U.S.’s TSA site that drones are allowed to be brought through security in your carry-on.

That being said, before flying, check with your individual airline’s website to make sure drones are not on the prohibited packing items list.

As a personal tip, before I send my drone through the scanner, I usually give the person working it a head’s up there is a drone inside. Every time I don’t, they also see its weird shape and feel the need to inspect it! This always ends up just saving everyone time.

Continue reading Can I take my drone through TSA in my carry-on baggage?

DJI Phantom 3 left joystick stuck? Here’s what you need to do

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about a problem with the left joystick on the DJI Phantom 3. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

We have a DJI Phantom 3 Standard Drone and on the left joy stick when you pull it straight down to the bottom it just stay there and locks to get it back to center you have to nudge it upward and it pops free and returns to center. Is this normal or a defect?

This is totally normal! But if it is impacting your flying, there are things you can do to “fix” it. It sounds like what you experienced is the “throttle lock” feature which DJI created for the Phantom 2 Vision Plus and carried over to early models of the Phantom 3 Standard.

It was actually intended to be a safety feature to help shut down the motors after landing, as well as to allow high altitude decent without holding the stick down.

However, considering you don’t see it in newer drones today, it sounds like many agree it may not be the best feature.  Continue reading DJI Phantom 3 left joystick stuck? Here’s what you need to do

Where in Orange County can I fly drones — and can I fly drones near helipads?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about how to read the Know B 4 U Fly map. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I’ve been scanning B 4 U Fly and some of the forums for tips on where I can fly (legally) in Orange County and it looks like the abundance of helipads/airstrips makes the whole County a no drone zone. Any recommendations?

For new pilots, it can be extremely unclear where people can or can’t fly. You’ll want to bookmark this site, which is the U.S. Air Space Map on the Know B 4 U Fly website.

The great news about flying as a hobbyist is you have far fewer restrictions than commercial pilots.

There are three things you need to pay attention to:

You DO need to pay attention to airports. Drone community guidelines ask that recreational operators give notice for flights within 5 miles of an airport. You can give that notice to the air traffic control tower, simply by calling them.

You also need to pay attention to temporary flight restrictions (TFRs). It is actually illegal to fly  a drone that is under a TFR – which are typically enacted during natural disasters (don’t fly over fires) or for major political events, such as if the President is in town. Continue reading Where in Orange County can I fly drones — and can I fly drones near helipads?

Waterproof drones: What are the best options out there for underwater photography?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about waterproof drones. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

We do a lot of boating and my husband also owns a boating company. I would like to get a nice drone with a good camera that is splash proof or can even be submerged. I have seen a lot of reviews on the SwellPro Splash; in articles everyone rants and raves, but on Amazon everyone seems to be not impressed or having issues with it.

DJI’s M200

Before we go further, the two big questions to ask yourself are 1: What’s your budget? and 2: What do you intend to use this for?

The DJI M200 is one of the top-of-the-line industrial drones and has a water-resistant body. However, that’s going to run you well over $5,000. DJI’s products are going to be durable , well-made and easy to fly.

If $5,000 isn’t in your budget, check out the DJI Mavic Pro. It’s easily my favorite drone to date. While I can’t vouch for the splash-proofness myself, a lot of users online claim that the DJI Mavic Pro has accidentally crashed into water and been able to come back to life. (I love my personal Mavic Pro too much to test whether it is waterproof for myself!) Continue reading Waterproof drones: What are the best options out there for underwater photography?

Do you need to take the Part 107 test if you have a pilot’s license?

Next up in our “Ask The Drone Girl” series is about taking the Part 107 commercial drone operator test when you have a pilot’s license. Got a question for The Drone Girl? Submit it here.

Do I have to take FAA Part 107 test if I am already licensed as a commercial airplane pilot to fly a drone for hire?

Great question!

For the uninitiated, under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107, anyone wanting to operate a drone commercially needs to obtain a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

People who do not currently have an existing manned pilot’s license will need to pass an in-person written exam.

But since you are already a licensed airplane pilot, it will be significantly easier for you to get a remote pilot certificate so you can operate drones for profit. You simply need to complete the FAA’s online course, which will take you about two hours to complete.

The course is free, and anyone can access it, even if they do not have an existing pilot’s license. The course covers topics that manned pilots wouldn’t necessarily know, such as recommended drone maintenance procedures, effects of weather on drones and emergency procedures. Continue reading Do you need to take the Part 107 test if you have a pilot’s license?