Travel News

Flying A Small Drone? You May Need A Pilot’s License!

Written by Charlie

With the onslaught of small, aerial drones that have hit the market over the years, the skies are seeing more and more of these aerial vehicles with cameras attached. A popular combo is the DJI Phantom series with a GoPro HERO camera that can be used to capture some incredible shots.


Drones like this that are operated commercially may soon need to be operated by a certified pilot

For a while, it has been rumored that the FAA was going to be issuing stricter guidelines for those that use these drones for a commercial purpose. These drones are great for taking video and photos for realtors, for films, for events, for landscape photos, etc. These uses are just a few of the many commercial purposes being contemplated. Some of the larger endeavors have to do with Google and Amazon who have been talking plans to use automated drones.

The FAA is now saying that they will be issuing new requirements for drones used for commercial purposes. To use them, you will need to keep them under 400 feet, always within sight, and only in the daytime. But the last requirement is the biggest – you will also need to hold a regular pilot’s license to fly the drone.

That will certainly put a damper on the commercial drone space. At the same time, it will open a new market for pilots who would rather be on the ground than in the air. These pilots could become contractors to hire out their drone-operating services for industries that use drone footage. This could be an interesting occupation – what do you do? I am a land-based commercial pilot. 🙂

Source: WSJ (paywall)

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • I have a feeling that it’ll require a Commercial pilot’s certificate. Which will be annoying. But maybe they’ll let privates go w/ an endorsement or something. Either way, might be a sweet and easy gig for pilots for a little while.

  • It’s so silly. If I’m flying and shooting video for fun, I can do it no problem. However, if I want to incorporate some of that footage into a paid video project I’m producing, all the sudden I need a commercial pilot’s license?
    I completely understand the need for some sort of licensing/regulation, especially now with stories of people crashing drones into protected hot springs and whatnot, but why should I have to be legally qualified to fly a Cessna in order to operate a 4 pound plastic drone, BUT ONLY WHEN I’M DOING SO FOR PROFIT?
    It’s still currently a moot point though, since the most recent court ruling found that the FAA does not have the authority to levy fines for the unlicensed use of drones.

    • It is kind of crazy to make someone have to have a license to simply use the footage in a way that would be considered commercial. For example, if I use a video clip from footage shot by a drone in a video I use on my blog, since I do make money from advertising, would that be considered commercial and require me to get a license?
      If they were going to license people, I would think it would be the other way around – the idea would be that if you are using a drone for commercial video that you are going to be more careful and exact than a hobbyist just flying it for fun.