The spirit of the law/regulation

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I am on the verge of becoming FAA certificated and have a serious question for other serious pilots. I understand that flying over people can have potential hazards. Keeping within the spirit of the regulations, what is the most practical balance you find? I would like to take some videos in public places, but occasionally that means flying directly over someone who is not aware. For example, I was at a state fairground where a few off-season activities were going on, with relatively few people present. I did NOT take some shots that I really wanted to take, because I knew I would fly over a few people, probably no more than 10, who would be directly under my flight path.

Interested in your viewpoints . . .

Thanks,
Calhoun Ranger
 
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. Keeping within the spirit of the regulations, what is the most practical balance you find?

The rule is perfectly clear. There is no spirit or balance. Do not fly over people. I don't. Not a single one. Never. Observe this and you cannot get into or cause trouble. Once you try to bend the rules, make exceptions, loosely interpret them or justify your not following them "... because I felt I was safe enough." is not going to cut it with the FAA or local LEO's.

If I have to cross a path or road where I can't see traffic / people from my vantage point (trees at ground level) then I point my camera down and look back and forth and wait until there are no cars / people and am assured that there won't be any, not even close, before proceeding. Or find a way around people.

And it doesn't matter if any person is aware or not. They are not part of the direct operation of the sUAS.

If you're operating under Part 107, then you're an FAA Certified Remote Pilot. Not the average joe blow with some new gee-wiz toy. You've earned the respect and have the responsibility that goes with it. You're expected to know the rules and follow them.
 
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I believe the regulation is that you can fly over sparsely populated areas. "Sparsely" is not clearly defined so you need to ask yourself, if there is an accident would a reasonable person agree, without any doubt, that you used good judgement.
 
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The word 'sparse' shows up only once in Part 107:

107.25 Operation from a moving vehicle or aircraft.
No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system—
(a) From a moving aircraft; or
(b) From a moving land or waterborne
vehicle unless the small unmanned aircraft is flown over a sparsely populated area
and is not transporting another person's property for compensation or hire.


But the OP isn't asking about sparsely populated areas, just people so ...

107.39 Operation over human beings.
No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft over a human being unless that human being is:
(a) Directly participating in the operation of the small unmanned aircraft; or
(b) Located under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable protection from a falling
small unmanned aircraft.


Just to forestall an interpretation, "participating" does not mean things like people in a wedding party that know the drone is above them or other people that are aware of the operation. It means the actual pilot or a VO, or the only other I can think of is if another is using a 2nd RC to control the filming / gimble. The key word being "operation".
 
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Welcome Calhoun Ranger, I don't want jump on you, but from your question please consider the first pass of rules were not designed to torture or frustrate sUAS pilots. Think of them in human terms:

Flying over people who are not protected,... aircraft system fail, ...too fast for you to recover, what do you say to the person hit? Er,.. I'm sorry mame that I hurt/disfigured your child, but I'll send you a proof of the great shot I got... Really?

Flying beyond/without VLOS,... lifeflight helicopter is responding and flying in low to an accident scene nearby also not VLOS...whoops...ingests UAV, sorry surviving families, I just didn't see it in my FPV goggles... Really?

Do you ever want be in those scenarios???

TOP GUN
"Negative Ghost Rider, the pattern is full...". And I think everyone knows how the subsequent debriefing goes after that . Risk assessment and decision making is what separates serious pilots from mavericks.

Happy flights, and safe landings,



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The law in any country is about intentions, not about spirit. No government bans cars because they may knock someone down that could step out in the road. It is assumed that your intentions will be benign. I have seen hundreds of drone pics from cities where the operator must have flown over people. But I don't believe in nanny state, life is a risk and so is crossing the street, drone flying can never be risk free unless regs come out to only certify its use in non inhabited areas where there is no foot traffic


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The law in any country is about intentions, not about spirit. ...

So my take away from your statements is that as long as YOU think you are being safe, YOU don't need to bother with any regulations, since YOU ARE NOT INTENDING to cause harm? Is that correct?

Your statements are not consistent. You talk about not banning cars, then go on to write about the OPERATION of things. If you stick with the car analogy , then you'll have to admit that the government does ban / regulate the operation of cars.

According to your line of reasoning, I may drive my car at 120 mph on busy streets, disregard traffic signals and if someone steps off the curb to walk across at a red light and I hit them, I am blameless because I had no intent to hit them and they should have made sure that the street was clear of traffic for miles. Because people get hit by cars every day.

Yeah, Uh huh. Let's see how that works out for you.
 
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For me there is no balance - I will not fly over people. I recently lost a potential job due to this and I'm fine with it.
 
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I follow the uk regulations for safe drone flying, our CAA which is the equivalent of your FAA, states you cannot fly within fifty metres of a person or property, or within thirty metres during take off. Since our altitude limit is 122 metres, as long as you are fifty metres above any people you are complying with our code. If one complies with the regs, check your craft before flying, and service it regularly, the risk is minimal which is why our regs are what they are. As so far as your retort is concerned, the risk is the same, being hit by a moving object be it a car or a drone, the injury you may suffer would be different. If you want to believe that you should never overfly people, great, fly your drone that way, I have no issue with that. But in the same vein do you really think that everyone should think and act like you? I hope not because that would be arrogant in the extreme. It's not only peoples from the USA that own drones, every country has its own codes, so why should everyone world wide follow your countries regs?


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Overheads of uncovered people who are not part of the shoot are a no-no with the FAA. However, if you have a drone capable of interchangeable lenses you could put on say a 45mm or 60mm lens on an Inspire 1 or 2 with a 5XR/S camera and it would act as a telephoto and get the drone far away from them yet appear close (Directly overhead is still a no-no, but a slight angle might work here.). I think a 45mm for full length shots puts a drone around 30-40 feet away but still it will look close.

There are drones that the FAA approves for flying over people's heads, but they are those blimp-like things you see at Madison Square Garden floating around the stands and the huge eyeball thing with cameras on it used at some outdoor events. Odd they do not show up in the FAA waivers website, but they are out there and maybe being a blimp is different. Only direct overhead wavier shown is CNN. Fwiw, the CNN wavier for overhead is here: https://www.faa.gov/uas/request_waiver/waivers_granted/media/107W-2016-00001A_CNN_CoW.pdf
Interesting parts are the sUAV can be no more than 21 feet over the person's head, still cannot operate over groups of people, and the PDF mentions Fotokite Pro which is a tethered drone here: The Fotokite Pro: Unlimited flight time and 1080p aerial live stream It is interesting the confines the FAA has even for them with the waiver.

I've toyed with the idea of attaching a 6 foot weather balloon to a drone filled with helium. A P4 works out to be about a 54 inch balloon to counteract the drones weight so it would float down rather than fall should it fault. Maybe the FAA would approve it? A lot of helium would be needed for testing and costly. Then the drag caused by trying to pull the thing around behind the drone too.

The "Dancing with the Stars" intro this past year had an Inspire 1 flying directly overhead of all the dancers at the Griffith Observatory. Likely they had a 333 exemption then to do so as they said it two two days and maybe 40 retakes to accomplish it.
 
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Although rumor has it this rule is going to be lifted/modified for 107 pilots, as of now, flying over anyone commercially not directly involved is a no no. Flying as a hobbiest, the guidelines are not to fly over groups of people.
 

ihj

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Spike_151, I don't know if it's the same in the U.K. As it is here in Australia, but where the rules refer to distance from people, vehicles and structures, they refer to horizontal distance. Just because you are at an altitude of 50m (or 30m over here) above, does not make a difference. If you are directly overhead at 5m or 50m it can still fall on them. It's the horizontal separation that provides safety.


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Spike_151, I don't know if it's the same in the U.K. As it is here in Australia, but where the rules refer to distance from people, vehicles and structures, they refer to horizontal distance. Just because you are at an altitude of 50m (or 30m over here) above, does not make a difference. If you are directly overhead at 5m or 50m it can still fall on them. It's the horizontal separation that provides safety.


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The fifty metre limit here is not to do with the drone falling out of the sky, it is to do with faces being unrecognisable at that distance from a drone, and so in theory not committing the tort of invasion of privacy. Aircraft both winged and helicopters overfly areas with millions of people and have the potential to kill thousands of people if they fall from the sky, which they occasionally do. The FAA and CAA do not adjust flight paths so planes only overfly areas of limited human habitation, which they could do if so inclined. Any risk assessment is severity x likeleyhood x what is reasonably cost practicable. As stated earlier in this post, the rules for commercial drone pilots are stricter for those that hobby fly. The FAA or CAA could end this whole debate by insisting drones must have parachutes on them, which is an OEM option on some Hubsan drones. So on failure, a verticle speed sensor in the parachute deploys the parachute at the correct time.

Like a driving test for a car, the speed limits are set by the government, but one trip down any countries freeway, or motorway here in the UK, and its easy to see that just about everybody ignores the speed limits unless there are speed cameras present. Humans being humans. Humans by nature do not adhere strictly to any regulations, but use common sense as to what is appropriate at any particular time.
 
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Here in good old Australia as a hobbyist or commercial flying under the sub 2kg rules you cannot get closer than 30 meters laterally from people ie e.g. Not 30 meters above but 30 meters away from in case it falls out of the sky and lands on someone's head. With a full RPAS lic and OC you can get clearance to fly as close as 15 meters if you have risk control measures.

No matter how good a pilot you are or how good your equipment is there is always a chance (no matter how remote) that some catastrophic failure will cause your multi rotor to drop straight down with gravity. Common sense says you should never ever fly a standard quadcopter over peoples heads no matter what altitude. They have 0 glide ratio and drop like rocks when a major component fails.

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