June 24th, 2015

Uber for Drones: Fly4Me Connects Pilots with Clients

A photo posted by fly4.me (@fly4.me) on

For all the popularity of drones, they’re far from a mass market product. Many users, even many photographers, may be leery of sending a flying robot into the air, lest it wind up on the White House lawn or on someone’s face.

That’s where Fly4Me comes in. It’s a new service that promises to link trained drone operators with paying clients–kind of like Uber for drones.

Drone owners use Fly4Me to create personalized profiles and bid on drone-related job offers, including aerial mapping, disaster surveillance but also photography and videography. Operators bring their own drone and get to keep 80 percent of any money earned. Any drone owner that wants to create a profile on Fly4Me has to undergo a safety certification process by the company first.

Fly4Me’s co-founder Adam Kersnoski told PDN that the company had obtained its 333 exemption from the FAA allowing commercial drone operations and that drone pilots using the service would be covered under that exemption.

The current exemption restricts the service to only using drone operators that fly a DJI Phantom 2, however Kersnoski told us the company’s lawyers were “already in the process of modifying [the FAA exemption] to exclude this restriction and add additional platforms.”

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Fly4Me is based in Boston and is signing up drone operators throughout the country.

The company is planning to offer some interesting technology to customers who hire operators through the platform, including the ability to view flight results uploaded by the pilot, live-streaming from a drone’s camera, private communication between pilot and customer during flight and the ability for customers to select flight locations by pointing a pin on Google Maps.

(Lead image from left to right: Adam Kersnowski, co-founder; David Amatuni, designer; Dmitry Sharshunskiy, co-founder; Karina Dodor, attorney.)

July 23rd, 2014

Court Refuses to Hear Challenge to FAA’s Drone Cease-and-Desist Orders

A Federal appeals court in Washington, DC, has dismissed a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by a search-and-rescue group in Texas that uses drones in its work, but both sides in the case are declaring victory.

Texas EquuSearch had tried to overturn an email from the FAA ordering the group to stop operating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones, in its search-and-rescue operations, the AP reports.

The three-judge panel said it could not review the case because the warning notice the FAA sent to did not represent the agency’s final policy on drone use, “nor did it give rise to any legal consequences.” The FAA is expected to finalize its policy on piloting drones for non-recreational use next year. The policy could affect photographers who  use drones to carry cameras on assignment.

The court’s ruling fails to clarify what authority the FAA has currently to regulate the use of drones.  In March, a federal administrative court judge overturned a $10,000 fine the FAA had imposed on photographer Raphael Pirker for using a drone to shoot a video for the University of Virginia, because the FAA still has no regulations on the books regarding the use of drones.

Brendan Schulman, the lawyer for Texas EquuSearch, told the site Motherboard that the appeals court ruling last week  “achieves the desired result of clarifying that Texas EquuSearch is not legally required to halt these humanitarian operations.” Texas EquuSearch has resumed piloting drones, AP reports.

In a statement, the FAA said, “The court’s decision in favor of the FAA regarding the Texas EquuSearch matter has no bearing on the FAA’s authority to regulate” unmanned aircraft vehicles. The FAA also said it reviews the use of drones “that are not for hobby or recreation on a case-by-case basis.”

Related Article
Commercial Drones are Legal, Federal Court Says
http://pdnpulse.pdnonline.com/2014/03/commercial-drones-are-legal-federal-court-says.html

March 10th, 2014

Commercial Drones Are Legal, Federal Court Says

A federal administrative court judge has determined that drones–aka unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs–can be used for commercial purposes because the Federal Aviation Administration has no regulations on the books that prohibit such uses.

Vice.com reported that the judge made the ruling last week in a case involving a photographer who had appealed a $10,000 fine for using a drone to shoot a video commercial, allegedly in violation of FAA rules.

The FAA immediately appealed, explaining in a statement that it “is concerned that this decision could impact the safe operation of the national airspace system and the safety of people and property on the ground.”

The FAA had fined photographer Raphael Pirker for unauthorized commercial use of a drone in 2011, after Pirker had used a remotely-controlled aircraft to produce a video commercial for the University of Virginia. Pirker had piloted the aircraft in the vicinity of the university, located in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Pirker, owner of UAV video production company Team Black Sheep, won his appeal of the fine on the grounds that a drone is in the same class of aircraft as model airplanes, which the FAA has never regulated. (The FAA has asked model airplane operators to fly the planes under 400 feet, and to stay away from airports, but those rules are strictly voluntary.)

The administrative court ruling means that photographers can use drones for commercial purposes, at least for now. But with the FAA opposed to unregulated use of drone aircraft in the US, it’s a safe bet that the agency will try to impose new administrative rules–or seek legislation–to restrict the use of drones in the near future.

Related:
Hartford Police Sued for Stopping Camera Drone, Chasing Photog Away