What is a Commercial Operator?

Commercial Drone Use

A person or company using unmanned aircraft system/drone technology for compensation or business purposes is considered to be a commercial operator. This includes any person or company using a drone in any way to advertise, promote or demonstrate a product or service – even if the product or service itself does not include a drone, drone-derived photography, etc.

For example, if a real estate agent uses a drone to photograph a property in order to advertise or promote that real estate for sale or lease, then that drone operation is commercial. The drone was used for business purposes.

Federal Restrictions & Requirements

Commercial operators can operate drones under 14 CFR Part 107, also known as the Small UAS Rule, as of Aug. 29, 2016. Under this rule, the person operating a small unmanned aircraft system must either hold a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating or be under the direct supervision of a person who does hold a remote pilot certificate (remote pilot in command).

Commercial operators can also operate drones under an exemption authorized under Section 333 of the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. This is a case-by-case exemption that must be applied for and approved by the FAA.

As an alternative to operating under Part 107 or a Section 333 exemption, a drone operator may apply for a federal Special Airworthiness Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration.