Drone photography is an upcoming business, but it is also being scrutinized by the FAA. Photo by Thomas Bender.

Drones weave in and around FAA regulations

When Jared Serfozo first saw drones being sold in America, the technology caught his attention.

“I had to have one,” he said.

Serfozo is a videographer who makes training videos for a software company. But he has freelanced for others on the side since he was in high school.

Since purchasing his first drone, Serfozo bought the domain name sarasotadrone.com.

He sees drone footage as a way to enhance his videos, but he strays away from only drone videos. He thinks that You Tube is “oversaturated with boring drone videos.”

“The drone should be a tool in making your video,” he said.

Serfozo stays way from using the word “commercial” in his materials, but the Federal Aviation Administration requires commercial drones users to apply and have an exemption. (How? It’s complicated; see below).

Serfozo charges his clients while doing freelance video work, which sometimes includes drone footage. He thinks FAA regulations for commercial drone users are unreasonable.


Jared Serfozo lands his drone, a DJI Inspire 1. Photo by Jennifer Nesslar.

Jared Serfozo lands his drone, a DJI Inspire 1. Photo by Jennifer Nesslar.


“I think a drone should be part of any media company’s tools,” he said. To stop anybody, to just say ‘don’t do it,’ is not really fair.”

He flies according to hobbyist guidelines (not so complicated; see below). He says he and many others in the drone community continue to fly despite FAA regulations.

He thinks the technology progressed faster than the FAA was able to regulate it in an appropriate way. He hopes that the FAA will develop a test people can take to become commercial drone pilots.

“I’m fine with regulation, I’m fine with fees, I’m fine with testing,” he said. “I just need to be able to take those things. As soon as I can I will.”

Drones recommended by Jared:

Jared’s drone: DJI Inspire 1. Costs just under $3,000

The drone Jared wishes he had: DJI Phanton 3. Costs about $1,200

Jared also says 3DR makes good drones—he’s considering switching to that brand.

The law behind drones:

Drones, known as unmanned aircraft systems by the Federal Aviation Administration, have a lot of regulations surrounding them. These regulations are constantly being revised, but here’s the skinny:

As a hobby:

It’s not too hard to stay in regulation. Basically, you just need to fly responsibly. Here are a few of the basic rules:

Stay below 400 feet

Don’t fly above people

Before flying within five miles of an airport, contact the airport

Fly only during the day

You can find more information at knowbeforeyoufly.com


To fly your drone commercially, which includes selling photos or videos, you must:

1. Apply for an exemption OR

2. Obtain a special airworthiness certificate for experimental purposes.


In order to obtain an airworthiness certificate, you must meet standards greater than that of an exemption. Here are some things to know about exemptions, and how to get on your way to applying for an exemption:

• As of June 23, the FAA has approved 656 petitions and closed 85.

• To apply, you’ll need a sport or recreational pilot license. This costs about $4500 and requires 20 hours of your time. A private pilot license works too, but that will cost twice as much and take twice as much time.

• File a petition for exemption at least 120 days before you want to fly commercially.

• Don’t ask for the moon. The FAA only approves users to fly in “low-risk” situations.

• Don’t expect a cookie-cutter process. The FAA approves on a case-by-case basis, and says the process looks different for everyone. Depending on you and your business, the process could require legal fees.

Don’t want to get an exemption to participate in commercial activity? You won’t be the only one who is avoiding it. But you’ll risk a fine from the FAA.

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