DJI Drones : Adding Drone Services to Your Portfolio
Having been in the photo industry all my career and being a FAA-certified remote pilot, I get asked questions about the steps required to add drone services to a photographer’s portfolio. Which drone is best for a photographer to purchase will be covered in another post. Here, I want to discuss what is required to use a drone as part of your photography business.
The first step is to get certified. In order to fly a drone under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107), you must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA. This certificate demonstrates that you understand the regulations, operating requirements, and procedures for safely flying a drone.
The Part 107 exam costs $175 to take. After the initial in-person exam, you can renew online at no cost. Some public safety agencies, like police, fire, etc., will send their staff to a one-week study class at a local community college before taking the exam; however, for individuals, there are many online study courses. This is the one I used for my study and the one I recommend to photographers wanting to get their Part 107 Certificate. https://remotepilot101.com. The cost of this course is $179, and you have access to it for life.
There are about eight or nine sets of short videos to watch. At the end of each set of videos, there is a sample test. At the end of all the videos, there is a final test covering all the material presented in the course. It took me a total of 24 hours of watching the videos and taking the tests until I could score above 90% repeatedly on the final test. You must score at least 70% on the real test in order to obtain your Remote Pilot Certificate.
Once you have studied and prepared, you will make an appointment at an FAA-certified testing center. These are the same testing centers that certify insurance agents and other professionals.
A couple of things to note. On the day of your test, you will be given this book to use as a reference.
If you buy this book before you start a study course, you will know the reference material you will have at the test and what information you do not need to memorize. You will also be given pencils and paper at the exam. The only items you can bring into the testing room is a simple four function calculator and a magnifying glass. I highly recommend a lit magnifying glass. The charts are very detailed and tiny. The test will be done on a computer, and you will have two hours to finish the test. It will have sixty multiple choice questions. It is important to take the full two hours going over each question multiple times. They will try to trick you with some of the questions.
If you pass the exam, you will be able to download a temporary certificate. Do not be surprised if your actual hard certificate takes a couple of months to arrive while the FAA investigates you after having passed the exam.
Now that you are a certified remote pilot and have purchased a drone, you will need to register the drone with the FAA. (Any drone that weighs over 249 grams needs to be registered.) Simple five-minute process and it is good for three years. https://faadronezone-access.faa.gov/#/ Cost is approximately $5.00. Do not get scammed by offers to register your drone for $50 to $100. All these companies do is take your info and then go to the same website listed above. Do it yourself and save the money.
You will then put the FAA registration number on your drone. They have recently changed the rules of where the number needs to be. It does not have to be on the outside of the craft. It can be in a battery compartment. However, it needs to be accessible without using tools.
There are two more things you will need before flying a job. Liability insurance and a LAANC authorization if you are planning on flying in controlled airspace. You can have your commercial insurance company add your drone to your policy, or you can download apps that give you insurance by the hour or day. Here is a link that lists some of the best ones. https://www.investopedia.com/best-drone-insurance-5073798
To receive a LAANC authorization (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability), you will download any of the various apps that do LAANC authorizations. You will then enter information into the app about when and where you will be flying and enter your Remote Pilot Certificate number. You will receive your authorization, usually in a matter of minutes. Read more about LAANC authorizations here. https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/laanc
Now you are ready to fly! If approached by someone in authority, you have your Remote Pilot Certificate, you can also show them your drone registration information and if required, your LAANC authorization to fly in that particular controlled airspace.
As always, I am happy to answer your questions about adding drone services to your portfolio and to also help you pick the perfect drone for your photographic business!
Take care and stay safe!Greg King