Starting & Running a Drone Business


Drone Sprayers: Uses, Laws & Regulations, Tips to Save Money (2018)

drone-spraying

Interested in a drone sprayer?

 

Drones are really just aerial platforms from which to do things. Most people associate drones as data collection platforms where you mount sensors such as cameras, LIDAR, etc., but drones can also be used for the delivery of all sorts of other things besides just drone package delivery or medical delivery. One great example is using the drone as a drone sprayer.

 

I’m a commercial pilot, current FAA certificated flight instructor, aviation attorney, and former professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I distilled into this article some of the important points that I have used as I have assisted clients in successfully obtaining Federal Aviation Administration approvals to operate their drone sprayers. If you need my help with exemptions, a Part 107 night waiver, going through the 137 agricultural aircraft operator certification, please contact me for pricing.

 

Table of Contents:

 

Drone Sprayer Examples:

I’m going to touch on the high points of each of these drone sprayer uses. Please keep in mind that each drone sprayer has is own set of unique problems, economics, laws, etc. My commentary is not an exhaustive discussion on the whole area.

 

A. Pollen Drone Sprayer

There is a problematic decline of bee population numbers around the United States which has been caused for various reasons. Dropcopter has stepped into this gap with a very innovative idea of using their drone sprayer to pollinate crops.

As a Digital Trends article put it,

“Pollination by drone isn’t the only alternative to insect pollination, but it may just be the most efficient current solution. Alternatives include using large tractor-mounted liquid sprayers or leaf blowers driven on quad bikes. Both of these are problematic due to the lack of reach and, in the case of liquid sprayers, the time-sensitive nature of the pollen once it gets mixed with liquid. Dropcopter’s drones, meanwhile, can cover 40 acres per hour, and can double the pollination window by also flying at night. This is one advantage they even have over bees since bees don’t fly at nighttime, when flowers remain open.”

 

It also appears that their Dropcopter can maybe increase yields. Dropcopter’s website says, “Dropcopter completed its patent pending prototype, and conducted the first ever UAS pollination of orchards crops, boosting crop set by 10%.” A study was completed and here are some pictures of the apples.

 

B. Drones for Spraying Insecticides (Mosquito Control, etc.)

Because of their ability to communicate diseases, fighting mosquitoes is a big thing around the U.S. Mosquito abatement organizations are seeking to actively use drones to help fight mosquitoes. Recently, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the Drone Integration Pilot Program. The DOT picked ten winners, one of which is the Lee County Mosquito Control District located in Ft. Myers Florida. “The proposal focuses on low-altitude aerial applications to control/surveille the mosquito population using a 1500-lb. UAS.”  Lee County is not the only mosquito control district interested in using drones for spraying pesticides. Other control districts currently have drone sprayer programs underway.

If you are a government agency that fights mosquitoes or other pests, there is the potential for your operations to be done under a certain type of classification called a public aircraft operation which gives your operation more flexibility than non-government entities. See below for a discussion.  If you are interested in helping your mosquito control district use drone sprayers, contact me.

Mosquitoes are not the only insects you might be interested in fighting. Drone Volt created a mount to spray insecticide on hornet nests way up in trees.

 

C. Crop Dusting Drones (Herbicide, Fertilizer, Fungicide, etc.)

Drone sprayers seem like a good choice to be crop dusting drones but there are MANY variables here that affect whether it is a good decision for your situation or not. Factors that influence whether this makes sense or not are:

  • Type of crop,
  • Value of the crop,
  • Ground size of the crop,
  • Droplet size requirements to be placed on the crop,
  • How quickly you need to spray a particular chemical on a crop (is there a window of time?), and
  • How much liquid you need to spray.

For large areas of land, manned aircraft and ground spraying rigs make more sense based upon cost per acre compared to crop dusting drones. Read my section below on the economics to understand this fully.  For smaller pieces of land or land that is inaccessible to ground rigs or manned aircraft, it might make sense to use crop dusting drones.

D. Drone Tree Seed Planter

 

Drone Seed is looking to corner the market on precision forestry.  Not only can it do a potentially dangerous job of planting trees on the slopes of steep inclines but it can also potentially do it faster than by workers on foot.

E. Wind Turbine De-Icing Drone Sprayer

The Verge did an article on the company Aerones which built a large drone sprayer with some serious lifting capacity to fly up and spray de-icing fluid on wind turbine blades.  The Verge article explained:

“The craft has a tether line supplying water, which it sprays at up to 100 liters a minute (with optional de-icing coating), and another for power, meaning it can stay aloft indefinitely. Cleaning by drone costs around $1,000, compared to $5,000 and up for cleaning by climbers.

The process is good for general maintenance, but also helps increase power efficiency. If snow and ice build up on a turbine’s blades, it slows the rate at which they produce power and can even bring it to a complete halt. Aerones adds that using a drone for de-icing is both quicker and safer than sending humans up using a cherry picker”

 

Drone Sprayer Economics

There is far more hype to this area that is being driven by possibilities rather than economics.

Drones are mobile platforms to spray from. There are other mobile platforms such as:

  • Manned aircraft (airplanes and helicopters)
  • Ground spraying rigs (tractor pulled, truck mounted, etc.)
  • Humans (Backpack sprayer)

Each of these platforms has pros and cons that need to be weighed against the benefits of the drone sprayer. For the discussions below, I’m assuming someone would be purchasing something like the HSE or DJI drone sprayers.

 

1. Manned Aircraft (Airplanes & Helicopters) vs. Drone Sprayers

Manned Aircraft: Most drone sprayers cannot carry a large payload compared to manned aircraft.  Manned aircraft also are lower in cost per acre than drone sprayer operations. For crop spraying,  drone sprayers won’t be used for large acres of land because the spraying rate per day is also way too small compared to manned aircraft which can spray thousands of gallons in one day. This is a major point people miss. There are narrow windows of time to spray crops due to all sorts of things such as weather, chemical being sprayed, growth cycle, etc. Simply put, drone sprayers cannot spray fast enough because their tanks are small.

Drone Sprayers: Drones have the ability to service clients who have smaller amounts of land or area inaccessible to manned aircraft.

 

2. Ground Spraying Rigs (Tractor Pulled, Truck Mounted, etc.)

Ground Spraying Rigs: They do not have to deal with the FAA and all those hassles. They can also hold much more spraying material than a drone.

Drone Sprayers: Drone sprayers can access areas that ground spraying rigs cannot, such as uneven, steep, or inaccessible terrain or sensitive environments where the ground vehicles would damage the area or crops. Drone sprayers are lower in cost to purchase and maintain.

 

3. Humans (Backpack Sprayer)

Backpack Sprayer:  Super cheap to purchase ($90) compared to a drone sprayer. No FAA problems.

Drone Sprayers: You can access areas with less danger to your employees. (Slip and fall anyone? Hello workers’ compensation claims.) Potentially more time efficient. Less exhausting than walking around with a hand pump sprayer. Depending on batteries and how quickly you can refill, this can be more time efficient than backpack sprayers.

 

 

So Where Do Drone Sprayers Fit In?

When you go to the home improvement store to buy some paint, you’ll notice that there are small spray paint cans, low cost electric paint sprayers, and large metal heavy duty commercial sprayers. By analogy, drone sprayers fill a sweet spot that is similar to low cost electric paint sprayers.

You have to focus on the strengths of drone sprayers to see where they shine:

  • Able to get into locations that manned aircraft, ground spraying tractors, or hand sprayers cannot access.
  • Safer than hand spraying.
  • Lower acquisition costs versus larger pieces of equipment (ground spraying tractors) or manned aircraft. Do you really need to buy that ground spraying rig?
  • Easy and low cost to transport and deploy. (Ground spraying rigs you have to drive or tow there.  Manned aircraft you have to fly to the location).
  • Able to service smaller clients that would not have hired a manned aircraft.

 

Can You Give Me Some Drone Spraying Examples?

  • High value crops that tend to cover smaller acres of land (vineyards, apple orchards, almond orchards, etc.).
  • Spraying pollen on higher value crops to increase crop yields.
  • Crops on terrain that is too inaccessible or inconvenient to get to with a ground sprayer yet is too small to justify hiring a manned aircraft spraying operation.
  • Herbicide spraying on rocky embankments near a water reservoir where you don’t want to endanger your employees or you have a hard time getting to the rocky areas with the ground rig.
  • Mosquito abatement in areas that ground vehicles (or boats) cannot easily get to and that don’t justify the use of manned aircraft.
  • You’re a company that is running an in-house operation testing out aerial application of chemicals or on a particular type of plant.

What About Costs? How Much Does a Spraying Drone Operation Cost?

Yes, those examples didn’t really take into account the total drone sprayer operational costs.  Here are some rough numbers you can use to go off of:

  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Related:
    • FAA Registration ($5 per drone). Good for 3 years.
    • FAA Remote Pilot Certificate Knowledge Exam ($150 per remote pilot). Aeronautical test knowledge is good for 24 months.
    • Study Material for Remote Pilot Test (Free-$250)  (I have a huge free study guide for the test located here).
    • If you are spraying anything other than just pure water,
      • You’ll need a Part 137 Agricultural Aircraft Operator Certificate ($0 per operator but will take time). Indefinite.
      • Exemption ($0 per operator but will take time and legal knowledge.) Lasts 2 years.
    • Need to spray at night? Part 107 night waiver.  ($0) Lasts 4 years.
  • Drone Sprayer Insurance. I can’t estimate this because there are many factors here.   Read my article on drone insurance before you buy some.
  • Crop Dusting Drone Sprayer & Equipment.  (13,000-40,000)
  • Spraying Pesticide? You’ll need a state restricted use pesticide license. (Around $100 to $250). Things can cause this to fluctuate so you’ll have to check your state.)

 

If you need my help with exemptions, a Part 107 night waiver, going through the 137 agricultural aircraft operator certification, please contact me for pricing.

 

Now before you start making business plans. You need to know that these drones are considered aircraft. Aircraft are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”). In addition to the FAA, other U.S. Federal laws may apply to your operation.

 

United States Drone Spraying Law

A. Federal Drone Spraying Law

1. Federal Aviation Regulations

Just at the get go, if you are a government agency, some of these regulations might NOT apply to you. This is completely beyond the scope of this article but I have talked about it more over here.

 

Part 107

Most commercial drone operators follow Part 107. There are other legal methods of getting your aircraft airborne legally but this is the most time and cost efficient. Basically, Part 107 requires the drone sprayer to be registered, the pilot to have a remote pilot certificate, and for the operations to be done according to the restrictions listed in Part 107. Click here to read up on the complete summary of what Part 107 says.

 

Here are the two most important things you need to know about Part 107 in relation to spraying drones:

  1. Part 107 is only for drones that weigh on take-off less than 55 pounds and
  2. You cannot carry hazardous material on the drone.

 

Now these are not deal breakers but you’ll need exemptions from these restrictions. Exemptions do not cost anything to file with the FAA but they do take time and legal knowledge to make sure you have identified all the regulations you need to be exempted from. If you don’t have the time or knowledge, you can hire people, like me, to help you with this.

 

Also keep in mind that for 55 pound + exemptions, there are documents and data the FAA will want you to submit in support with the exemption. This data might NOT be supplied by the drone sprayer manufacturers, which means you need to create it or find someone who has. See tips below for more on this topic.

 

Part 137 – Agricultural Aircraft Operations. 

Part 137 specifically defines the applicability of this Part of the Code of Federal Regulations. Agricultural aircraft operation means the operation of an aircraft for the purpose of:

  1. Dispensing any economic poison,
  2. Dispensing any other substance intended for plant nourishment, soil treatment, propagation of plant life, or pest control, or
  3. Engaging in dispensing activities directly affecting agriculture, horticulture, or forest preservation, but not including the dispensing of live insects.

 

Part 137.3 defines economic poison:

Economic poison means (1) any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any insects, rodents, nematodes, fungi, weeds, and other forms of plant or animal life or viruses, except viruses on or in living man or other animals, which the Secretary of Agriculture shall declare to be a pest, and (2) any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant or desiccant.

 

Most spraying operations fall into the applicability of Part 137 and because of such, they’ll need exemptions from sections of this part. Why? Part 137 was created a long long time ago. The regulations designed for manned aircraft do not make sense with drone sprayers. Conveniently, if you are already getting an exemption from the prohibition in Part 107 to not carry hazardous materials (like economic poisons), you can just add the sections of Part 137 that you need exempting from all into one request for exemption document.

 

Here is a major point that people miss. In addition to the exemption to do agricultural aircraft operations, the operator will need to obtain an agricultural aircraft operator certificate. You can thankfully pursue both the exemption and certificate in parallel to speed things up but you’ll need the exemption approval before you get inspected by the FAA as the final step in getting your agricultural aircraft operator certificate.

 

2. Other Federal Regulations

Keep in mind the FAA isn’t the only federal agency you might have to deal with. There is also the Environmental Protection Agency and also the Occupational and Health Safety Administration which have regulations that apply.  Discussing these regulations is way outside the scope of this article but I wanted to mention this.

 

B. State & Local Drone Spraying Laws

There are state and local laws that apply to aerial application spraying (manned and unmanned spraying). This is a very broad area but just know that states require you to obtain some type of restricted use pesticide license to spray any economic poisons and typically you need the certification in the category you are performing the work (aerial application).

Some states require you have your drone sprayer registered with the FAA and even the state. The state won’t issue any state registration until you also show some drone insurance on your drone sprayer. This means you won’t be able to do some type of hourly insurance set up but will have to obtain annual insurance and request a certificate of insurance to show to the state.

Local laws also might apply depending on what you are spraying, when you are spraying, and where you are spraying.

 

Drone Sprayers for Sale

Right now, there are some companies that are manufacturing spraying drones. The drone sprayers listed below are ones I’m familiar with. I didn’t do an exhaustive search for all that is out there.

Keep in mind you don’t just buy the drone sprayer. You’ll be also thinking about purchasing a transport case, extra batteries, training, etc.

 

Tips on Starting a Drone Sprayer Operation (Read This Before You Buy)

1. Work With an Attorney

A. Attorney Client Relationship Protects Sensitive Conversations.  The attorney-client privilege protects conversations between the client and the attorney. This allows for open conversations regarding the legality of the operations.  “Was I supposed to do……..”  or “We just received a letter of investigation” are supposed to be brought up in the open and honest attorney-client discussion. There are alot of regulations that apply. Do you really want to rely on a non-attorney to give you legal advice? You’re the one getting the fines, not the consultant.

Please note that it is ATTORNEY client relationship and not consultant client relationship. The FAA, federal and state law enforcement, plaintiff’s attorneys, etc. can subpoena your consultant to testify against you. They can’t do that with an attorney except for really rare situations. The consultant is stuck between a rock and a hard place. They either tell the truth and goof you up, lie and risk jail, or refuse to answer and go to jail.  The answer is simple – you’ll get goofed over every time.

B. An attorney can actually provide legal advice – lawfully. You’re going to need a lot of answers regarding the laws. Almost all the states I know of require that people who provide legal advice be licensed attorneys in that state. Only attorneys can provide legal advice. If anyone claims they are an attorney, check the state bar directory in which they live to see if they are a current member in good standing. For example, if you go to the Florida Bar’s member search page, you can search for me and see that I’m eligible to practice law and in good standing with the Florida Bar.

I know of a person running around in the industry right now that calls themselves an attorney but that person is actually a disbarred attorney who was disbarred because of dishonest conduct towards the client. It will look pretty bad to your boss if you hire a so-called attorney who turns out to not be a LICENSED attorney.

C. They have a duty to you. – This is an important one. Yes, we all understand the idea of giving secrets away to a competitor is a big no-no. But consider this….as a Florida Bar attorney, I’m actually prohibited from paying out to any non-attorney or drone manufacturers any referral fees. This means that if I recommend something or someone, I’m recommending it because it is good, not because I’m getting paid for it. Furthermore, this means that people who refer to me are sending you to me because I’m the best person to help, NOT that I’m giving them a kickback.  

D. Protection. Most attorneys have legal malpractice insurance which is there to protect you in case there is a mistake.  I don’t know of any consultants that have legal malpractice insurance to protect you if they advise you incorrectly on the aviation regulations or the other laws that apply to this area. Furthermore, attorneys go through background checks to get barred. Consultants don’t have to get checked out.

2. Are You Planning on Flying 55 Pounds or Heavier in the United States? 

A. Limited Payload. To fly under Part 107, your drone sprayer needs to weigh under 55 pounds on take-off. It could have the capability to fly heavier, but you need to keep it under. This is an important point because you could purchase a drone sprayer capable of flying over 55 pounds but you’ll be forced to limit the amount of liquid in your tanks for the drone and liquid together to be under 55 pounds at take-off.

B. More Costs & Different Rules. The amount of effort to fly a drone sprayer weighing 55 pounds or heavier is much more considerable than just flying under Part 107 without an exemption. Keep in mind you cannot just get a remote pilot certificate and fly a 55+ drone sprayer. The pilot will need the more costly sport pilot certificate and will be operating under a completely different set of regulations than Part 107. This means your up front costs WILL be higher for flying a 55+ drone than for an under 55 drone.  This also means that if you want to scale out the drone spraying operation, you’ll need to pay for training to get the employee a sport pilot certificate or recruit people that already have this license or higher.  It might make sense for your operation to have multiple under 55 pound drone sprayers and maybe one or more 55+ drone sprayers for larger jobs.

C. Lack of Reliability Data. This is actually the worst one.  For a 55+ exemption, the FAA will ask for information on the drone sprayer, such as how many total hours have been flown on it to show engineering reliability.  This is different than manuals. Is there any supporting data that shows this type of air frame is safe? This means you’ll most likely have to obtain the drone sprayer data yourself or find someone who already has. Maybe in the future the FAA will approve other 55+ exemptions based upon someone doing the previous leg work on the same make and model of drone sprayer but I have yet to see that.

D. Registration Planning. The easy online method of registering the drone sprayer under Part 48 is for only drone sprayers that will be operated under 55 pounds. This means you’ll have to go through the headache of de-registering under Part 48 and re-registering under Part 47 which is a pain in and of itself. Proper planning would say if you plan on going 55+ with your drone sprayer, just register under Part 47 which is good for both under 55  and 55+ operations.

Conclusion

Drone sprayers provide great opportunities for certain types of operations but not all situations. To help you achieve your drone sprayer goals quickly and legally, it is best to work with someone who has familiarity with the area.

If you are planning on navigating this difficult area, contact me. I’m a commercial pilot, current FAA certificated flight instructor, aviation attorney, and former professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I am currently assisting clients in these matters and HAVE successfully obtained exemption approvals for clients to do drone spraying.  I’m also familiar with the non-aviation related legal issues that are extremely important for drone sprayer operations.


Drone Insurance Guide from Attorney/Flight Instructor (2018)

What happens if you crash your drone into a person, yourself, or something expensive? No, seriously. Think about it. You most likely right now are wondering about how to obtain your drone license, finding jobs, running your drone operation, etc.

But seriously.

Are you protected? Do you have enough money to cover the costs of an accident?

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” Proverbs 27:12

This article is designed to help you understand, drone insurance, drone insurance terminology, bad substitutes for proper drone liability insurance, and the different angles liability can come from so you can make wise decisions to protect your business and your family. This article is helpful for:

  • Commercial drone operators
  • Businesses hiring drone operators for services
  • Recreational flyers.

Table of Contents of this Drone Insurance Guide:


I had an hour with Terry Miller, an insurance broker at Unmanned Risk, discussing a lot of the issues in this article and some stuff that is NOT in the article.

Why Drone Insurance? 

Let’s go back in time to when kings used to protect themselves with castles.  They had moats, archers, knights, big walls, catapults, a draw bridge, etc.  All of these things were barriers to prevent an invading army from capturing the king.  Likewise, you need to treat yourself, and your family, as the royal family and surround yourself with different types of protections.

Insurance is a way of protecting yourself, your family, and your business from a catastrophic accident. In addition to protection, drone insurance:

  • Shows that you are a serious professional and potentially allows you to access higher end clients who require drone insurance.
  • Is the loving thing to have to make sure your customers, or other people, are protected and made whole if they are injured.
  • Allows you to continue focusing on doing your business while your insurance company handles the claim.
  • Lets you sleep at night or continue focusing on running your business.

Yes, I can hear you now saying, “But Jonathan, I would never fly my drone in an unsafe manner. Why should I buy drone insurance?” You also might say, “I would never let reckless people fly around me or for me.”

I’m not saying you would fly recklessly or allow others but there are situations outside of your knowledge and/or control which would lead to an accident. The Academy of Model Aeronautics insurance report from 2012 says, “The most common cause of injury is ‘lost control of aircraft’; usually without a confirmed cause (vague allegations of frequency interference are common).”

There are things outside of your knowledge and control that can happen which put you at risk of liability.

What is Drone Insurance?

Insurance can simply be boiled down to you trading your risk of liability to the insurance company in exchange for money you pay to them.

You can have liability risk from all sorts of things ranging from aircraft accidents, negligent repairs, negligent instruction, negligent hiring, etc.

Everyone has in their mind the idea of the drone flying into some car or another person, but I don’t want you to think of things so narrowly.

You need to think broadly when it comes to liability.

You should think in terms of the different actions and relationships you might have relative to other individuals.

 

Below is a table of SOME of the legal liabilities. It is not exhaustive but covers the major points. Each individual or business will have different liabilities which will trigger the need for special insurance products tailored to them. If you are working with a good drone insurance broker or drone attorney, they should be able to help you identify issues. Or perhaps you are large company that needs a drone attorney? Cough cough. Hint hint. Wink wink. Moving on…

Please keep in mind the threshold for getting into a lawsuit is low. Regardless of the likelihood of judgement against you, you will be paying for an attorney to defend you and not be focused on your business.

 

Drone Insurance Terminology:

Before we can talk further about some of the issues, we need to have an understanding of the terms. Some of these are from Terry Miller’s Transport Risk’s Drone Insurance 101 slides:

  • Premium – This is the amount of money that the person or business must pay for the insurance policy.
  • Deductible – In the event of a claim, this is the amount the person must pay before the insurance company will pay. This is to make sure the named insured has some “skin in the game.”
  • Non-Owned Aircraft Coverage – Protects you from legal obligations that result from the operation of a drone you do not own.
  • Payload Coverage – This covers the payload you own on the drone. For example, let’s say you are a drone cinematography company that can carry different types of cameras. You could insure the Red Dragon differently than the Red Epic.
  • Non-owned Payload Coverage -This covers the payload of the drone you do NOT own. For example, you are a cinematography company that flies an aircraft that can carry different cameras. The production company wants you to use a special type of camera and lens that you do not own. You rent the equipment from a camera rental studio and get non-owned payload coverage on the rented camera and lens.
  • Additional Insured – A person or person other than the original named insured, who is  protected under the terms of a policy.
  • UAS Liability Insurance – Protects insureds from claims by other parties (“third parties”) for bodily injury or death and property damage. The claim has to result from an occurrence related to the operation of the UAS.
  • Hull Insurance – Coverage for physical damage done to the drone. It is not liability coverage and is therefore triggered by a covered event, regardless of the reason for the damage or loss.
  • Subrogation – A doctrine that gives an insurance company the right to attempt to recoup some or all of the money they paid on behalf of insureds. They do this by proving that another party was legally responsible for the loss and the party has the financial ability to reimburse the insurance company.

 

Problematic Substitutes for Drone Insurance

 

1. Home Owner Insurance Is Not Always Drone Insurance

Some of you might have home owner’s insurance. Here is the problem with using it as drone insurance, most home owners insurance policies have exclusions which state that they specifically do not cover aircraft related liability. Claimsjournal.com repeated this in an article, “Most homeowners’ policies exclude liability for injuries or damages arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation, use, loading, or unloading of “aircraft.” See, e.g., Id.; Aridas v. Royal Ins. Co. of Am., 462 F. Supp. 2d 76, 77 (D. Me. 2006); Hanover Ins. Co. v. Showalter, 561 N.E.2d 1230, 1231 (Ill. App. Ct. 1990)Tucker v. Allstate Tex. Lloyds Ins. Co., 180 S.W.3d 880, 884 (Tex. App. 2005).

Some insurance policies might cover recreational drone flying if the definition of “aircraft” in the policy allows for it. The Claimsjournal.com article went on to say, ” Our research reveals that at least some homeowners’ policies define ‘aircraft’ as ‘any device used or designed for flight, except model or hobby aircraft not used or designed to carry people or cargo.’ See, e.g., Tucker, 180 S.W.3d at 884. To the extent a UAS operator’s homeowners’ policy includes this definition, or some similar variation, harm caused by an insured’s UAS is likely covered because a UAS will probably be deemed “a model or hobby aircraft not used or designed to carry people or cargo.”

It is also important to recognize that most homeowners’ policies exclude coverage for business activities.”

Read your policy to see if you are covered. If your home owner or renter’s insurance does NOT cover your drone flying, you should look at getting drone insurance.

 

2. AMA Member Drone Insurance Is Not Really Commercial Drone Insurance

Academy of Model Aeronautics’ insurance policy will provide SOME recreational protection, see the fine details of the policy, but the policy says, “The policy does NOT cover business pursuits; that is any activity that generates income for a member beyond reimbursement of expenses, except this business pursuit exclusion does not apply to individual members providing modeling instructions for pay to AMA members.”

Furthermore, “AMA insurance is ‘excess’ to any other applicable coverage, such as homeowner’s” which means your home owners insurances has to pay first and be exhausted before the AMA insurance will kick in.  What does that mean? You will have higher home owner’s insurance premiums in the future. Even after you put that Phantom 4 in the closet.

 

3. Relying on Someone Else’s Drone Insurance Policy to Cover You is Problematic.

 

Yes, you can get listed on another person’s insurance policy as additionally insured. This can provide you SOME protection, but this can be problematic.

Who might want to purchase non-owned drone insurance policies?

  • Companies hiring drone service providers
  • Independent flight instructors or educational institutions providing instruction to people on their own drones

Yes, I can hear you now, “Wait? Say wuuuuttt?!! Jonathan, you are saying I still need to purchase insurance even though I am protected by the other person’s policy?”

Yes, and here is why.

The other person could:

  • Have lied on their application and their claims will be denied.
  • Be operating outside the terms and conditions of the insurance coverage.
  • Be flying another drone NOT listed on their policy and they didn’t bother to tell you they crashed the first one.
  • Have cancelled his policy or stopped paying for it. There have been reports of people and/or companies in the drone industry just purchasing an annual policy, sending the potential client a certificate of insurance, and then cancelling the policy after the job is awarded. In this case, the company hiring the drone service provider can separately purchase from the insurance company a notice of cancellation.

Moreover, their insurance policy does NOT protect you from:

What is even more crazy is that the insurance company for the drone company might even come after YOU for your negligence. This is under what is called subrogation. Basically, the insurance company stands in the shoes of the insured.  If you goofed over the person you hired, and that insurance company had to pay out, the insurance company might turn around and come after you for your negligence to recover the money they paid out.  This is why sometimes the hiring company purchases from the insurance company of the drone service provider a waiver of subrogation which prevents the insurance company from pursuing claims against the additionally insured hiring company. Keep in mind that is only for the insurance company. The drone service provider might still come after you.

Drone Insurance Considerations

 

1.Insurance Broker or Go Direct to Insurance Company?

  • Drone Liability Insurance Broker
    • A broker is interested in selling you the best product for your needs.
    • May or may NOT cost you more. The agent makes his money from selling you an insurance policy which typically means more expensive policies. However, he can also shop around to find you the best “bang for the buck” which might come out lower.
    • The agent will be there to help answer your questions and identify future needs. You might need a special 1 time high limit insurance policy for a job that broker can help you with.
    • Help to identify the correct hull valuation which is important if a claim is made. For example, if you overestimate your aircraft’s worth and the damage does not numerically get high enough to the overestimate to be declared a total loss, you end up getting your drone repaired when it should have just been replaced. Terry Miller made some good points in this article,  “Consider the dangers of over-insuring your UAS. Over-insuring your UAS comes with unwanted consequences:
      • Paying higher premiums for coverage under the policy
      • Likely that physical damage premium will be fully-earned
      • Deductible costs are out of pocke
      • Repair of a UAS that should be totaled
      • Ownership of a UAS with damage history and thus lower resale value
      • Questionable safety of the repaired UAS
  • Direct to Drone Insurance Company
    • Insurance companies are interested in selling you the products their company sells. In other words, if they are a “hammer” selling company, all of your problems look like “nails.”
    • Insurance company can sometimes charge lower prices because there is no broker commissions to pay. However, this means you might waste a lot of time trying to read through all the material to find out what is best for you when an independent broker could have answered your questions quickly.

 

2.Annual vs. Hourly Drone Insurance

Annual insurance is fixed while hourly insurance is….well…hourly.  This means that if you fly too much, hourly will be MORE expensive than annual insurance. Here is how to figure out if you might need annual instead of hourly drone insurance.

  1. Figure out how many hours you plan on flying for a month. Yes, this might be hard to figure out at the very beginning. You could do hourly insurance for 1-2 months and then use the number of hours you flew in those 1-2 months as a basis to estimate the upcoming months. You could also call over to companies in the area and ask them.
  2. Determine how many months realistically you will be able to fly. Consider how weather will affect your flying and/or customers. For example, you can do business year-round in Florida or Southern California but only some of the year in New England. If you go to my drone sightings page, you’ll see a graph of drone sightings activity by month and also by city. This can give you rough idea of the months for your area.
  3. Find out the cost of an annual premium.
  4. Divide that by the number of months you think you will be flying.
  5. This will arrive at the cost per month for the annual insurance policy. You can then see if it will be more costly to fly using hourly insurance or if it will be cheaper.

Also keep in mind that it is not annual OR hourly insurance. You might purchase both. Why?  Let’s say you have a Phantom 4 you fly a ton, but you have an Inspire 2 which you don’t fly frequently. You might purchase annual for the Phantom 4 and then get hourly for the Inspire 2 you rarely fly. You might be able to add the additional Inspire 2 to your annual policy for not that much more money but that would be dependent upon you knowing or expecting it. If you can’t expect flying it, you might just do hourly as a backup in a moments notice.

If you are a startup and are slowly testing the waters, you might want to keep your operating costs low and use hourly insurance for the first 1-2 months.

3. Myths regarding hourly insurance.

 4. Do you have enough?

For example, if you cause an accident which takes down electrical power to an area, that could be costly because (1) you have to pay to repair the line, (2) the electric company lost revenue, (3) there might be some lawsuits for destroyed food caused by lack of refrigeration due to power failure, (4) car accident because the traffic light went out, etc.

 

How to Choose a Drone Insurance Broker

Helpful Questions:

  • How long they have been an aviation insurance broker? Is that important?
  • Do they have any special training? (College degree in insurance or aviation, etc.)
  • Have they worked for an aviation insurance company? In other words, have they worked on the “other side?”
  • Do they sell aviation insurance products for manned aircraft also?
  • Does anyone else in the drone industry use them?
  • Do they have support staff to help you in case the broker is out?
  • Do they have access to other types of insurance that an aviation insurance broker might not have access to?

Once you find one, call only that broker. Don’t call around to get competitive quotes. Keep reading to find out why.

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is drone insurance legally required?

In the United States, according to the Federal Aviation Regulations, you do not need drone insurance; however, state and local laws might require it or other types of insurance associated with your operations (e.g. commercial operations might need worker’s compensation insurance). See an aviation attorney in your state.

Can I get drone insurance for just one job?

Yes, drone insurance can be purchased hourly, per job, per day, or on an annual basis.

Is it a good idea to call around to different insurance brokers to get competitive bids?

No, here is why.  There are only a small number of UAS insurance companies that do business in the US. As a rule, an insurance company will work only with one broker at a time based on the order they come in.  In other words, you won’t have two competitive bids because the insurance company will be dealing with only ONE broker, the first one to contact them, representing you.

 

How many different insurance products are out there for those in the drone industry?

There are all sorts of other different types of insurance products that some in drone industry might need:

  • Worker’s comp
  • UAS repair and servicing
  • Manufacturing
  • Flight instructing (negligent instruction)
  • Agriculture spraying operations
  • Premises liability, and much more.

 

Great Drone Crash Videos to Make You Start Seeing the Drone Insurance Issues

Sometimes Reckless People Might Be Flying Over the Event You Are Hosting

 

Sometimes You Realize You are Not a Top Gun Pilot or a Cinematographer.

 


Drone Business Resources & Tools to Build Your Business

Loading

Email:

Streak and Boomerang for Gmail

Mailchimp

Converktit

 

Web Hosting:


Ultimate Drone Logbook Guide (Drone Logbook Templates, Drone Flight Logbooks, Drone Logbook PDF, etc.)

Do one of the following drone logbook statements accurate describe you?

  • “What does the FAA want me to log? I don’t want to get in trouble.”
  • “Where do I log it?”
  • “Should I do paper or electronic?”
  • “I’m confused with all the different terms.”

If any of the above describe you, you are in the right place. We are are going to dive into all of the issues surrounding drone logbooks. This article will be applicable to recreational and commercial drone operators.

There are primarily two types of logbooks: (1) pilot drone logbooks where the pilot logs experience and training and (2) drone aircraft/maintenance logbooks. There are two modes of logbooks: (1) paper and (2) electronic.

 

Table of Contents:

 

 

I. Drone Logbook Law

A. Logbook Definitions

Before we dive in, let’s discuss some terms that some of you might have heard floating around:

  • Acting pilot in command
  • Logging pilot in command,
  • Remote pilot in command,
  • Flight training,
  • Ground training,
  • Authorized Instructor,
  • Pilot,
  • Operator, etc.

 

B. Brief History of Where the Logbook Definitions Came From

Section 61.51 is the most important section for Part 61 pilots on logbooks and specifically lays out some definitions and the requirements to log that time. These specific terms and requirements were created for pilots to accurately describe their training and experience to meet eligibility requirements to obtain an airmen certificate or added rating. This was how manned aircraft pilots were doing it. Then drones came on the scene.

We had to fit the square in the round hole in September 2014 with the first batch of 333 exemptions were released. There continues to be a provision in the 333 exemptions that mentions that the pilot may log time in accordance with 61.51(b) to show pilot in command (“PIC”) qualifications to operate under the 333.

Then on August 29th, 2016, Part 101 and Part 107 became law which gave us the term remote pilot in command.That is interesting to note since for a while it was a “must” log until November 2016 where the FAA unilaterally updated 5,000+ exemptions and now they say “may” log in a manner consistent with 61.51(b).

So how do we sort this all out when it comes to logging since we have different terms in different parts of the regulations?

 

C. How to Make Sense of What to Use in Your Drone Logbook

Part 61 is how you get manned aircraft certificates while Part 91 is how you lose that manned aircraft certificate (by violating those operating regulations). The Section 333 exemptions adopted the standards in 61.51(b) and then later were changed to say “may.”

Part 107 created this neatly contained part of regulations which spells out what you need to do to obtain your remote pilot certificate and how to operate under it. You only need to pass a computer-based knowledge exam to fly unmanned aircraft so definitions are not even needed to define knowledge, experience, or training in a logbook to obtain a certificate under Part 107. The definitions only really mattered in a Part 61 & Part 91 situation where training and experience needed to be logged accurately.

Furthermore, 14 CFR 61.8 says, “Any action conducted pursuant to part 107 of this chapter or Subpart E of part 101 of this chapter cannot be used to meet the requirements of this part.” You cannot even use the drone time towards obtaining a Part 61 airmen certificate or rating. What a bummer. :(

Moreover, most of the terms are not even accurately being used! If you look carefully at the definitions, you’ll notice that almost all of them 99% of the time cannot be applied to Part 107 remote pilots under a strict reading of the legal definitions. Sure. Everyone will know what you mean but they are not legally accurate usages. But then again, in 107 world, many of these definitions don’t matter.   You could call the time flying your Star Wars tie fighter drone “Lord Vader time” because you aren’t using that time to go for a certificate or rating.

Here is a helpful graph of the different definitions, their location, and how a person flying under Part 101 or Part 107 should treat the definition.

D. Graph of Different Drone Logbook Terms

 

Term

Location in the LawHow to treat it.Definition

Operating Under Part 61 & Part 91

(Acting) Pilot in command

14 CFR 1.1

This is a term regarding ACTING as PIC. PICs acting as PIC can log it. The reason why there are different terms is because sometimes you can log PIC without being acting PIC. See Logging Pilot-In-Command Time article for AOPA.  If you are operating under 107 or 101, this does NOT even apply to you.

“Pilot in command means the person who:

(1) Has final authority and responsibility for the operation and safety of the flight;

(2) Has been designated as pilot in command before or during the flight; and

(3) Holds the appropriate category, class, and type rating, if appropriate, for the conduct of the flight.”

(Logging) Pilot in Command

14 CFR 61.51(e)

Only applicable for sport, recreational, private, commercial, or ATP when rated for the category and class of aircraft. Very rarely will the pilot have the same category and class rating as the unmanned aircraft being flown that is also in compliance with 14 CFR 61.51(j). Even if you get the rare perfect scenario, 14 CFR 61.8 says you can’t even use the PIC time for anything under Part 61 so why bother?“(e) Logging pilot-in-command flight time. (1) A sport, recreational, private, commercial, or airline transport pilot may log pilot in command flight time for flights”

Solo Flight Time

14 CFR 61.51(d)

No one can log this because you can’t get in an unmanned aircraft; otherwise, it wouldn’t be unmanned. I guess a woman could get inside one and it still be unmanned but I don’t know if the FAA will still consider that an unmanned aircraft. 😊“(d) Logging of solo flight time. Except for a student pilot performing the duties of pilot in command of an airship requiring more than one pilot flight crewmember, a pilot may log as solo flight time only that flight time when the pilot is the sole occupant of the aircraft.”

Flight Training

14 CFR 1.1

You cannot log this because once again, you are not “in flight in an aircraft[.]”“Flight training means that training, other than ground training, received from an authorized instructor in flight in an aircraft”

Ground Training

14 CFR 1.1

Only authorized instructors (see below) can log this in the logbooks of their students. But there are no truly authorized flight instructors for drones.“Ground training means that training, other than flight training, received from an authorized instructor.”

Authorized instructor

14 CFR 1.1

Here is the problem, ground and flight instructors are “authorized within the limitations of that person’s flight instructor certificate and ratings to train and issue endorsements that are required for” a list of airmen certificates and ratings, but the remote pilot certificate is NOT EVEN ON THE LIST! See 61.215 and 61.193. In other words, ground and flight instructors are not “authorized” to train remote pilots. Sure, flight instructors can train people all day long. It isn’t like the instructor is prohibited from training people, it is just the FAA is not giving its official approval of the competency of the flight instructor to give training to people seeking their remote pilot certificates. But you don’t need the official approval from the FAA for the training because the computer based knowledge exam is what the FAA has officially approved to determine aeronautical knowledge of the remote pilot applicant.“Authorized instructor means—

(i) A person who holds a ground instructor certificate issued under part 61 of this chapter and is in compliance with §61.217, when conducting ground training in accordance with the privileges and limitations of his or her ground instructor certificate;

(ii) A person who holds a flight instructor certificate issued under part 61 of this chapter and is in compliance with §61.197, when conducting ground training or flight training in accordance with the privileges and limitations of his or her flight instructor certificate; or

(iii) A person authorized by the Administrator to provide ground training or flight training under part 61, 121, 135, or 142 of this chapter when conducting ground training or flight training in accordance with that authority.”

“Pilot” vs. “Operator”

The FAA said this very well in now Cancelled Notice 8900.259, “The terms “pilot” and “operator” have historical meanings in aviation, which may have led to some confusion within the UAS community. As defined by the FAA in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 1, § 1.1, the term “operate,” “…with respect to aircraft, means use, cause to use or authorize to use aircraft, for the purpose… of air navigation including the piloting of aircraft, with or without the right of legal control….” This means that an operator is the person or entity responsible for the overall aircraft and that may include a broad range of areas, such as maintenance, general operations, specific procedures, and selecting properly trained and certified flightcrew members to fly the aircraft. The pilot in command (PIC), also defined in § 1.1, is the final authority for an individual flight. Pilots are persons appropriately trained to fly aircraft.”   Additionally, the FAA said in the preamble to the small unmanned aircraft rule, “Several commenters noted that using the term “operator” in part 107 could result in confusion. NTSB, ALPA, and TTD pointed out that “operator” is currently used to refer to a business entity and that use of that term to refer to a small UAS pilot would be inconsistent with existing usage. Transport Canada and several other commenters stated that ICAO defines the person manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS as a “remote pilot” and asked the FAA to use this terminology in order to harmonize with ICAO. Transport Canada also noted that: (1) Canada uses the same terminology as ICAO; and (2) calling an airman certificate issued under part 107 an “operator certificate” may lead to confusion with FAA regulations in part 119, which allow a business entity to obtain an operating certificate to transport people and property. ALPA and TTD suggested that the person manipulating the controls of the small UAS should be referred to as a pilot, asserting that this would be consistent with how the word pilot has traditionally been used. As pointed out by the commenters, FAA regulations currently use the term “commercial operator” to refer to a person, other than an air carrier, who engages in the transportation of persons or property for compensation or hire. Commercial operators are issued an “operating certificate” under 14 CFR part 119.67 Because other FAA regulations already use the term “operator” to refer to someone other than a small UAS pilot under part 107, the FAA agrees with commenters that use of the term “operator” in this rule could be confusing.” (emphasis mine).

This is What a 107 Remote Pilot Can Log, But Is NOT Legally Required to & Really Does Not Matter

Remote Pilot in Command14 CFR 107.12 & 107.19.Applicable only to unmanned aircraft systems operations.

Advisory Circular 107-2 at 4.2.5 says it nicely, “A person who holds a remote pilot certificate with an sUAS rating and has the final authority and responsibility for the operation and safety of an sUAS operation conducted under part 107.

 

E. Recreational Drone Operations 

A recreational drone operator cannot accurately rely on memory to determine when to change out batteries or propellers. Additionally, memory is a poor way to recall if preventive maintenance checks were done.

One can argue that flying a drone over and over again without logging the time the propellers have been used to be “careless and reckless” which is contrary to the Academy of Model Aeronautics Safety Code and the Drone Users Group Network Safety Guidelines. RCAPA’s general safety guidelines require that the drone be “airworthy” prior to flight. A logbook is a reliable way to determine time on properly for a drone operator to make a decision on the airworthiness of the aircraft.

Whether the above argument holds any water in a court of law is another discussion but this is more food for thought than listing potential arguments the FAA might throw at a recreational operator.

 

F. Commercial Drone Operators (Section 333 & Part 107). 

1 . Section 333 Operators

The FAA requires that commercial operators who have 333 exemptions and “blanket” COA’s to file monthly reports. Additionally, those commercial operators operating under the 333 are required to log their flights according to 14 CFR 61.51(b) which says:

(b) Logbook entries. For the purposes of meeting the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section, each person must enter the following information for each flight or lesson logged:

(1) General—

(i) Date.

(ii) Total flight time or lesson time.

(iii) Location where the aircraft departed and arrived, or for lessons in a flight simulator or flight training device, the location where the lesson occurred.

(iv) Type and identification of aircraft, flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device, as appropriate.

(v) The name of a safety pilot, if required by §91.109 of this chapter.

(2) Type of pilot experience or training—

(i) Solo.

(ii) Pilot in command.

(iii) Second in command.

(iv) Flight and ground training received from an authorized instructor.

(v) Training received in a flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device from an authorized instructor.

(3) Conditions of flight—

(i) Day or night.

(ii) Actual instrument.

(iii) Simulated instrument conditions in flight, a flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device.

(iv) Use of night vision goggles in an aircraft in flight, in a flight simulator, or in a flight training device.

2. Part 107

Section 107.49  says:

Prior to flight, the remote pilot in command must . . .

(c) Ensure that all control links between ground control station and the small unmanned aircraft are working properly;

(d) If the small unmanned aircraft is powered, ensure that there is enough available power for the small unmanned aircraft system to operate for the intended operational time; and

(e) Ensure that any object attached or carried by the small unmanned aircraft is secure and does not adversely affect the flight characteristics or controllability of the aircraft.

How can a remote pilot comply with 107.49(c)-(e) if the remote pilot is not logging aircraft problems and maintenance? The FAA said it nicely in Advisory Circular 107-2, “Maintenance and inspection recordkeeping provides retrievable empirical evidence of vital safety assessment data defining the condition of safety-critical systems and components supporting the decision to launch.”

But here is the problem with drones, they are aircraft, but the drone manufacturers don’t treat them like aircraft. We don’t have any warnings being issued on certain parts like we have with the airworthiness directives in manned aviation. Yes, GoPro did a recall because of their batteries which is a good start. The technology changes so much that the mean time between failures is not known for many parts of the drones. People just buy the Phantom 4 before the Phantom 2 or 3 broke. No one is sharing the data of the aircraft failures. Why would you want to and be called an idiot on the internet? So really any preventative maintenance being done, while appearing safe, is really going to be just best guesses.

Section 107.7 says, “A remote pilot in command, owner, or person manipulating the flight controls of a small unmanned aircraft system must, upon request, make available to the Administrator: . . .(2) Any other document, record, or report required to be kept under the regulations of this chapter.”

If you study Part 107 carefully, you’ll notice no log books are required to be kept; however, if you obtain a Part 107 waiver, such as a night waiver, the waiver requires the responsible person to have documented night training the remote pilot in command and visual observer have received and that documentation must be available upon request from the FAA. This is what section 107.7 means by “Any other document, record, or report required to be kept under the regulations of this chapter.”

 

II. Reasons Why You Should Have a Drone Logbook

Legal Compliance. You might need to document training received for some waivers. Additionally, you might want to log aircraft maintenance to prove that you attempted to maintain the aircraft in an airworthy manner.

Marketing. Showing a completed logbook to a potential customer is a great marketing point. Like the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” a good logbook is worth a thousand flights. You can quickly demonstrate your flight experience by flipping through the pages. Furthermore, a well-kept and orderly logbook gives the impression that you are a professional.

Insurance. When you apply for insurance, they will ask you to fill out a form that is going to ask for all sorts of information. A logbook will assist you in filling out the form so you can receive the most accurate quote.

Maintenance. You cannot accurately rely on your memory to recall if you did something or not. Has that problem you observed gone away? Is it getting worse? Logging helps you notice trends and also allows you to rule out certain things when hunting for the cause of a problem.

III. Paper vs. Electronic Drone Logbooks 

  • Paper Drone Logbooks
    • If you are operating under a Section 333, 14 C.F.R. § 61.51(i) says, “Persons must present their pilot certificate, medical certificate, logbook, or any other record required by this part for inspection upon a reasonable request by” the FAA, an authorized representative from the National Transportation Safety Board, or any Federal, State, or local law enforcement officer. If your electronic logbook is on your device, do you really want to give law enforcement or the FAA your device? Furthermore, how are you to get the data off that device? A paper log book can be easily inspected by law enforcement officials without them prying into your privacy.
    • Fixed costs (unless you go through paper like crazy)
    • No battery, no software, no firmware, no bad cell reception.
    • If you are investigated, whoever is investigating is going to have to obtain the logbook itself as opposed to just subpoenaing the electronic logbook company to turn over all your info.
    • No data theft.
    • Some countries require paper logbooks.
    • It is easier to allow a potential client flip through the pages than reading on your small cell phone with greasy smudge stains.
    • Harder to “cook the books” with paper.
    • Easier to transfer to another person who purchases a drone from you.
  • Electronic Drone Logbooks or Drone Logbook Apps
    • Totaling up the numbers is soooo much easier.
    • Accurate total numbers.
    • Less time spent on managing the logbooks.
    • You can customize these as you need.
    • Some plans have monthly fees.
    • The data is less likely to be lost compared to a paper copy which has to deal with fire, flood, hurricanes, bad memories, etc.
    • You can have data breaches.
    • Law enforcement or personal injury attorney can subpoena the records from the database.

IV. What Drone Logbooks Are on the Market?

A. Drone Logbooks Apps

Here are the more popular electronic drone logbooks. Some allow you to log pilot experience as well as aircraft time and maintenance. Most have a basic free version and the availability to add plans with extra features for a price.

B. Drone Flight Logbook Templates, Excel, or PDF

Basically, everything I saw on the internet looked bad so I decided to allow people to download the template of the Drone Operator Logbook. If you like this logbook, you can just buy the paperback version of it on Amazon (link below) and save on printing since Amazon sells mine for around $10.

To download the logbook template, simply sign up for the newsletter with your email and it should be sent to your email.

C. Paper Drone Logbooks

Here are the more popular paper drone logbooks.

V. Review of the 3 Most Popular Paper Drone Logbooks on the Market

A.  ASA’s The Standard UAS Operator Logbook

ASA's The Standard UAS Operator Logbook

Pros:

  • Compact.
  • Hardcover so you can easily write in it.
  • You could use it with a Section 333 exemption because it is 61.51(b) compatible.

Cons:

  • Some of the columns don’t make sense. For example, there is a “to” category and a “from” category.  We are flying drones here guys. We don’t fly these anywhere else but right where we are standing. Another example is that there is a column for rotor,  fixed wing, and a blank column. What in the world would you put in that blank column? Powered lift or lighter than air?  Another column says instrument time.
  • Small so you can’t write a lot of information in it.

B.  UAS Pilot Log Expanded Edition

UAS Pilot Log Expanded EditionPros

  • It has this cool graph on the side.  This is great for sketching things out. But you could just get regular paper and sketch things out if you need.
  • There is an “eh ok” checklist built into every page.
  • The gutter in between the pages might allow for it to be hole punched.

Cons

  • It does not have rows or columns for the 61.51(b) elements. While 61.51 isn’t a standard for 107 or 101 flyers, if you choose to adopt it, you’ll have to remember to put things in.
  • There are not many columns to log different types of time.
  • It has a pre-flight checklist but no post-flight checklist.

C.  Drone Operator’s Logbook

Brief note on the differences between V 1.2 and V 1.3 of my logbook. The text in the instruction up front was updated to reflect the changes since Part 107 is now law. Also, I changed the top quick notes section of each page from “FAR Required” to “61.51(b)” and “333 Required” to Section 333 to reflect the FAA’s new “may” language in the exemptions. I added more places to log battery cycles in the bottom from 6 to now 12.
 drone-logbook-example
Pros:
  • 61.51(b) elements are included in case you want to adopt this standard.
  • You can log battery discharges right on each page.
  • There is a TON of room on each page. You can easily log all your notes. Since it is also large, you can get regular writing paper and sketch out the job sites and then staple them to the page where you logged the flight.
  • This logbook is large enough to also double as a maintenance logbook for your aircraft. When you make any repairs, staple in the receipts and make detailed so you can better diagnose problems or obtain a higher resell value for the aircraft because you can prove what was done to it. I would suggest if you want to use it as a maintenance logbook, that you buy a separate logbook just for the aircraft in case you fly multiple aircraft.
  • Each page has a “cheat sheet” of things to jog your memory on what you might want to log on each line.
Cons:
  • It is a softcover so writing might be difficult.
  • It is the largest of the logbooks (but you get a lot of room to write). It might be difficult to fit into a plastic sleeve that would fit in a 3 ring binder. However, I think the way around this is to just buy one of the plastic 3 ring expansion envelopes like this one.
  • Some have complained that the gutter is too small which makes it difficult to hole punch the logbook.

VI. How to Fill Out My Drone Logbook.

 

drone-logbook-example

Starting at the top, there are two rows with asterisks which are references for the Type of Flight and Notes sections. There is also a handy time conversion.

DATE: The date of the flight.

AIRCRAFT/MAKE & MODEL: Put the make and model of the aircraft.

IDENT/Exemption #: In this column, you can put the registration of the aircraft. You can also put in an exemption number if you want.

LOCATION. Blanket COA reporting must list the city/town, state, and coordinates in decimal, minute, second format, (DD, MM, SS.S) N (DD, MM, SS.S) W, in the COA reports. Tip: Open up the iPhone compass app and it will display the GPS coordinates in the proper format at the bottom of the compass. 107 remote pilots or 101 recreational flyers are not required to log this but may adopt to.

BLANK COLUMN. If you are operating under your 333 exemption still, track your plan of activities (POA) submissions and NOTAM filing. You can also track invoice number, the pre & post voltage of batteries, takeoff or landing damage, equipment malfunctions, or lost link events.

TYPE OF FLIGHT. 61.51(b) lists terms like solo/pilot in command/flight, ground training, training received, or simulator training received. Notice the * reminds you to look at the top of the page for suggestions.  333 exemptions allow logging of (training/ proficiency/ experience). Optional entries could be ($/testing/recreation).

NOTES.  Here are some suggestions: memory cards [1,2,3], batteries [A,B,C], the name of the visual observer (“VO”), NOTAM filed, the ID of the COA you are flying under, did you file the plan of activities?, Invoice #, pre/post voltage on the batteries, and SQWK (which means you documented in the SQWK section the problems and fixes).If you are a Section 333 operator and you experienced takeoff or landing damage, equipment malfunctions, or lost link events, you MUST report this to the FAA via COA reporting.

D/N. day or night?  # of TO/L. Number of take-offs and landings (hopefully they are the same number :)  COA reports want “Number of flights (per location, per aircraft)”

Total Flight. Use a new battery for each line and enter the time after each flight. A convenient list of numbers is located on each page to help determine the most accurate entry. .1=6s  .2=12s  .3=18s .4=24s .5=30s .6=36s .7=42s .8=48s .9=54s  For each battery, make sure you log cycles at the bottom with tick marks. This way you can keep track of when to fully discharge the drone battery based upon the manufacturer’s recommendations.

SQWK. Squawk section where you list any issues you discovered during flight. Instead of putting all of this in the notes section, just write “sqwk” and you’ll know to look at the bottom. In that section, You look for the number corresponding to the line number because all of the squawks go into the bottom box.

You can keep track of firmware updates by listing them below the battery section.

When you are finished with a page, add all the numbers up, sign the page, and cut off the corner of the page. This makes it easy to find the most current tab using your thumb.

Conclusion

I would highly suggest you do not just go and do nothing after reading this. You should log your flights so as to track any maintenance that needs doing as well as collecting data to know when you need to change our certain parts or the entire drone.

Get a logbook, a piece of paper, a word document, one of the logbooks mentioned above, ANYTHING!  Just do it now. Don’t push it off. You won’t do. Start doing something. Today.

Stay safe. :)


A good [drone company] name is to be valued. (Updated for 2018)

drone-business-nameI was doing research for one of my 333 petition clients and came across some interesting findings I want to share with everyone.

It seems to me that there are only about 15 words and everyone basically mixes up those 15 words (think Scrabble), picks a few of them, and puts them together to create a company name.

One business I know of in the pool leak industry had a big problem. Their original company name was Leak Solutions. They had a great word of mouth reputation but people were referring potential customers to the incorrect company or the potential customers had a hard time remembering the exact accurate name and finding the company. There were many different competitors in the industry with very similar names who were taking their business. The company rebranded their name to Red Rhino.

The big problem with choosing a name with words everyone else is using is your customers are going to get the names confused and referral sources could potentially send referrals to the wrong company or competitor!

Seriously, almost all the drone companies have one of these words in them:

  • solutions
  • aerial
  • view
  • unmanned
  • drone
  • UAS
  • UAV
  • technology
  • vision
  • aero
  • services
  • hawk
  • fly
  • eagle
  • sky
  • bird
  • eye
  • media
  • cine
  • picture
  • cam
  • film
  • precision, etc.

Are you wanting to become a commercial drone pilot? I created a FREE study guide to help you take the test!

 

Here is a perfect example of why you want to do research before picking a name.

I found 333 petitions for:

  • Skyview Aerial Solutions, LLC
  • Sky-View Aerial Services LLC
  • Skyview Films, LLC
  • SkyView Innovation Technology
  • Richard Boyle d/b/a Sky Eye View
  • SkyView Photoworks
  • GPS Development, LLC dba SkyViewHD
  • Skyview Media Productions, LLC

This is also an important lesson on why you need to do research before starting a company. Proverbs 19:2 says, “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” Anyone interested in starting a business should learn more about trademarks. Want to learn more about trademarks? Great! The United States Patent and Trademark Office created some helpful videos on this area. These videos are great to watch during your lunch break.

A simple way of picking a name is (your name) + (services).  I did that with my company Rupprecht Law, P.A.  If you don’t want to go that route (maybe because your name is common like Smith), I would suggest picking a name that:

  • Involves an animal
  • Has a color in it
  • Is not trademarked
  • The domain name is available
  • There are no other names on Google that come up with a similar thing or that are very powerful.  For example, the drone company Skyward has to compete with Skyward which is a K-12 administrative software package.
  • Make sure there is NOT any bad reputation with the name from another industry (like Enron).
  • Check to see if you can register the social media handles with the name on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin.
  • Is it forcing you to stick to one industry? For example, if it is Drone Bros and you decide to go into doing video productions, your clients might be confused by the name. Keep in mind that you have the ability to maybe get a doing business as DBA for whatever you go into. You want it broad enough for the future but accurately describes you now.

I would NOT pick a name that is based upon a location:

  • You might move.
  • Others will have the same idea. I saw one guy on Facebook talking about a competitor naming his business almost the same as his.  ( example: “Springfield Drones”).

I hope this helps!