On The Rise—Operating a Drone For Commercial Purposes*

April 15, 2016Articles

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (a.k.a. drones) is on the rise. If you have, or are planning to purchase, a drone for commercial use, the following checklist illustrates the key steps you need to accomplish before taking flight.

1. Identify an operator that has an Airmen’s Certificate.

2. Register on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) website and label your drone.

    • If your drone weighs more than 0.55 lbs. but less than 55 lbs., register here: http://www.faa.gov/uas/registration/
    • If your drone weighs less than 0.55 lbs, no registration is required.
    • If your drone weighs more than 55 lbs, more stringent authorizations apply.

3. Submit an application for and obtain a Section 333 Exemption.

4. Submit and obtain a Certificate of Authorization (for flying at altitudes above 200 feet).

    • Can be submitted concurrently with Section 333 Exemption Application.

5. Investigate your need for drone insurance.

  • Typical commercial general liability (CGL) policies exclude coverage.
  • Insurance Services Office Inc. (ISO) endorsements available: Coverage A for bodily injury/property damage and Coverage B for personal/advertising injury.
  • Stand-alone unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) policy.

6. Create and enforce a drone operating procedure.

    • Create a standardized pre-flight checklist.
    • Have a flight plan.
      • Are you planning to fly within a restricted zone (i.e., airport, public arena)? If so, specific approvals/notices apply.
      • FAA App: B4UFLY (http://www.faa.gov/uas/b4ufly/)
    • Create a standardized post-flight checklist.
      • Battery recharging.
      • Storage and cleaning after flights.
      • Preventive maintenance procedures.

7. Create and enforce internal policies on drone use.

    • Personal use of drone by employees.
    • Create and use standardized notices to property owners and people encountered during drone flights.

For a discussion of additional consideration specific to the use of drones in the real estate development and construction industries, read more here.


*Regulations are constantly changing. Considerations differ for entities hiring a third-party drone service provider and for recreational use of a drone. Please contact your Dinsmore attorney to discuss this checklist or your industry-specific concerns regarding drone use.