Drones and their use by professional photographers

Thu 24th Jul, 2014

By APA Admin in Insight, National

Submitted by Tim Dalal, July 24, 2014

There is a buzz going through the professional photographic community about the FAA’s current review of regulations regarding the use of model aircraft.

On June 23, 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration issued the rule document, “Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft”.    

This notice signifies their intent to reinterpret the existing rules for the use of UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) including drones. It is open for public comment through June 25, 2014.

The rules were most recently clarified in 2007 to include three categories of UAS:  
1)    UAS used as public aircraft   
2)    UAS used as civil aircraft  
3)    UAS used as model aircraft.

Various APA members have contacted us about this action and the potential impact it will could have on their continued ability to use drones for commercial photographic purposes without restrictions or with a few restrictions as possible. Their opinions echo the passionate concerns of civilian drone users around the country. One such group of users is The Drone User Group Network (DUGN). DUGN, with its network of local affiliates, has put forth a very sensible Statement of Principles which promotes: 

1)    Safe and competent use of drones 
2)    The legal use of drones and 
3)    Humane use of drones.

While APA is concerned about the overlap of the broader civilian concerns about government regulations and how they relate to the professional photographic community, we would like to point out the distinction between the use of drones for commercial purposes and hobby or recreational uses.  

The FAA has very clearly described these distinctions in their document.

We urge you to read the document in its entirety to fully grasp the scope of the regulations and the proposed clarifications.

In the same way that we espouse a set of best practices regarding highly regulated subject matter such as licensing and copyright, we need to examine the role of policies regarding the use of drones as an adjunct to our very specific skill set as professional photographers. It is to our advantage to work with the laws and regulations that place us beyond the sphere of the amateur or hobbyist.

To submit comments to the FCC proposal go to:

Enter the following term in the search bar 
Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft


APA SF SET Event - Tues, July 14: Where do we go from here?

Tue 14 Jul – Tue 14 Jul, 2020

How are we as individuals and as a community addressing systemic racial bias in our lives & work?




Fri 22nd May, 2020

2020 APA Awards - Call for...

Our annual competition is open to all photographers at every level, worldwide; everyone from...