” If you fly a drone and post footage on YouTube, you could end up with a letter from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Earlier this week, the agency sent a legal notice to Jayson Hanes, a Tampa-based drone hobbyist who has been posting drone-shot videos online for roughly the last year.
The FAA said that, because there are ads on YouTube, Hanes’s flights constituted a commercial use of the technology subject to stricter regulations and enforcement action from the agency. It said that if he did not stop flying “commercially,” he could be subject to fines or sanctions.
” This office has received a complaint regarding your use of an unmanned aerial vehicle (aka drone) for commercial purposes referencing your video on the website youtube.com as evidence,” the letter reads. “After a review of your website, it does appear that the complaint is valid.” “
The hobby use of drones and other model aircraft has never been regulated by the FAA, but the agency has been adamant about making a distinction between hobby and commercial use, which has led to much confusion over the last couple years.
Where, exactly, does commercial use begin and hobby use end, for instance? If you fly for fun, but happen to sell your footage later, were you flying for a “commercial purpose?” What if you give it to a news organization that runs it on a television station that has ads on it? What if you upload it to YouTube and Google happens to put an ad on it? What if you decide to put an ad on it?
The letter makes clear that at least some in the FAA (this one was sent by Michael Singleton, an aviation safety inspector in the FAA’s Tampa office) take a very wide view of what is “commercial.” “
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