Legality of cashing in on drones for commercial use

By KBJR News 1

July 28, 2014 Updated Jul 29, 2014 at 8:53 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Clayton Schnell and Riley Peterson are behind the controls of a new Duluth-based aerial production company called "Drone Star" and their passion is fueling their business.

"We're taking on a venture that most people steer away from," said Schnell.

The co-owners fully admit they're diving into uncharted waters with their venture which involves shooting video and pictures from their drones for various customers.

"It's not groundbreaking technology, it's awe-inspiring technology," said Schnell.

Right now Federal Aviation Administration guidelines for drones restrict commercial use.

"Commercial use requires a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot and operating approval," a statement from the FAA said.

Two court rulings this year sided with commercial drone operators, opening up what some call a "gray" area.

"They've put themselves in a corner in a way where they can't really enforce this right now. Their regulations are so dated," said Cory Fechner, a drone hobbyist who owns a marketing firm in the Twin Cities.

The most recent update to the 1981 law happened around seven years ago.

Fechner says he's been approached multiple times about shooting aerial videos for clients, but says it's too risky at this point.

"It comes back to respecting the FAA enough to know that they're trying to protect the skies. So let them do this case by case to buy time. Let's do it right is what it all comes back to," he said.

The team behind "Drone Star" says they are operating their business in a safe and controlled way, flying their fleet of drones under 400 feet.

But that may not be enough.

"The FAA may take enforcement action against anyone who operates a UAS in a way that endangers the safety of the national airspace system. This authority is designed to protect users of the airspace as well as people and property on the ground," a statement from the FAA said.

Following a push by the nation's largest association for hobbyists and commercial model-aircraft and drone flyers, the Federal Aviation Administration extended its public comment period on new proposed laws affecting drones by 60 days, just last week.

Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft public comment website.

Written by Kevin Jacobsen
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