Realtors Liable for $11,000 FAA fines for Hiring Unlicensed Drone Operators

Some Quick Questions?

Can someone fly a drone without a remote pilot certificate?

It is important to note that engaging in drone operations without holding a remote pilot certificate is not only a violation of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, but it is also considered a federal crime that may result in severe legal consequences. While the FAA has already been imposing substantial fines on drone operators who engage in illegal drone operations, including fines amounting to millions of dollars, it is imperative to understand that the Department of Justice can also step in and pursue criminal charges against individuals. Therefore, it is crucial for drone operators to obtain the necessary certification and comply with the FAA regulations to avoid facing legal charges and penalties. Failure to do so may result in severe legal and financial repercussions.

What is 49 U.S. Code § 46306 - Registration violations involving aircraft not providing air transportation

49 USC 46306(b) says, “a person shall be fined under title 18, imprisoned for not more than 3 years, or both, if the person— . . . (7)knowingly and willfully serves or attempts to serve in any capacity as an airman without an airman’s certificate authorizing the individual to serve in that capacity[.]” So flying illegally is a federal felony. 

“COUNT SIX
(Operating as an Airman without legitimate Airman Certificate)
Between on or about January 4, 2016, and continuing until on or about November 28, 2020, in the Middle District of Florida, and elsewhere, the defendant, HOWARD D. FARLEY, JR., did knowingly and willfully serve as an airman, that is, as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airman Private Pilot, without having a valid Private Pilot Airman’s Certificate in his name authorizing him to serve in that capacity, as he was operating aircraft N242TA in U.S. airspace while knowing his FAA airman certificate was fraudulently issued in another person’s identity In violation of 49 U.S.C. § 46306(b)(7).”

 

What happens when if I hire an illegal drone operator?

The failure to pay attention to details in your business dealings could have extremely negative consequences. One of the biggest risks you run is losing customers without even realizing it, which can be especially detrimental over time. In addition to this, the consequences of being associated with illegal practices can be enormous – you could be blacklisted from industry associations, sued by customers or employees, shut down by regulators, or even forced to pay exorbitant fines. By engaging in illegal practices, you also risk undercutting honest businesses and sabotaging competition. This undermines the industry as a whole and makes it difficult for legitimate businesses to thrive. That’s why it’s crucial for business owners to prioritize the vetting of potential partners, employees and collaborators, and to work with licensed and legal professionals. By doing so, you can ensure that you are setting yourself and your business up for success both in the short and long term.

I cannot get in trouble because I’m not the one flying.

49 USC 46306(b) says, “a person shall be fined under title 18, imprisoned for not more than 3 years, or both, if the person— . . . (8)knowingly and willfully employs for service or uses in any capacity as an airman an individual who does not have an airman’s certificate authorizing the individual to serve in that capacity[.]”   In that indictment above, this is what Count Seven said,

COUNT SEVEN
(Employing or Using an Airman without legitimate Airman Certificate)
Between on or about January 4, 2016, and continuing until on or about November 28, 2020, in the Middle District of Florida, and elsewhere, the defendant, DUC HANH Till VU, did knowingly and willfully employ for service or use in any capacity as an airman, HOWARD D. FARLEY, JR., who did not have a valid Private Pilot Airman’s Certificate in his name authorizing him to serve in that capacity, in that she used HOWARD D. FARLEY, JR. to operate aircraftN242TA in U.S. airspace, knowing his FAA airman certificate was fraudulently obtained in another person’s identity.
In violation of 49 U.S.C. § 46306(b)(8).

Come on... Make my day! We all know that famous Dirty Harry line. Well, that's what the FAA is telling real estate agents with their new drone regulations. It's been a long time, those long awaited rules that give us all the freedom we want to use these new toys to sell our listings.

We want this view for our listing and love how beautiful it looks and shows the surrounding area. I can get Jimmy to do this for me. He knows me and has a drone. I can throw him a few dollars. Or I have my own drone that I can use. I am sure it will be ok as I do it all the time.

We can come up with all kinds of excuses, but we don’t usually take the time to learn the rules and regulations that governments impose on us, trying to control our lives, forcing us to walk like sheep at their own pace. So let me help you figure it out. I belong to several major groups of professional photographers in the US and around the world, many of whom are licensed pilots and drone operators. We have been discussing and sharing news, information and ideas over the years.

“As an update, the FAA confirmed in writing the penalties that may apply. For an unlicensed pilot, the fine is $1,100 per event/flight where the images are used commercially. Perhaps more importantly, the fine for the real estate agent who hired unlicensed pilot is $11,000 Of course, if you’re an agent who bought the drone and took the photo or video yourself, you’ll be liable for both fines.

Let me put it in simple terms for you. Whenever you take “Jimmy” (a kid from a local high school) with you to shoot “commercial” (that’s you) drones, he is subject to a $1,100 fine and you are subject to a $11,000 fine. So, what’s worse, you’re giving them evidence just by posting those photos on the MLS.    

All you need is a competitor to sue you. We all know that this never happens. None of you have ever received an anonymous complaint sent to the board of real estate agents about any advertisement or website that unknowingly slightly broke the rules. That never happens, does it?  

Did you know that if you fly any of these drones within 5 miles of the airport perimeter, you must call the control tower and give them all the information (be prepared to get your drone license ready when you talk to them, by the way)? 

Licensed drone operators are insured and provide reasonable service. Use them when it makes sense. Hire only legal, safe, insured, licensed and authorized operators.