If you are interested in the reality of flying a drone commercially and legally then this article by Mike Tully, CEO and President of Aerial Services is a must read. Mike looks at a number of the key issues involved with a FAA 333 exemption and explains the practical implications on a commercial operation.
One issue that I have not seen discussed before involves a firm’s professional liability insurance. Mike notes, “A firm’s professional liability insurance may not cover an “incident” if the drone operations do not comply with the regulations. Because these regulations have not been legally tested and because of the considerable ambiguity with terms like “congested”, “populated”, “persons”, an insurance company may have the standing to deny claims because the operator is in violation of the FAA regulations as written.”
On a positive note. Mike reports, “The good news is that just as this article was being published the FAA announced that all Section 333 exemptions (that allowed drones to fly up to 200′) were now authorized to fly at 400′. This will make a considerable difference in the number and types of commercial applications in which drones can be profitably used. But even 400’ is too low for many, if not most, applications.
The FAA should be working with the professional mapping community to develop the appropriate regulations.