Choosing the Right Drone Pilot

In this article we cover the basics for hiring a drone pilot to reduce liability for you as the client!

 Here are some handy tips for when hiring a drone pilot

Here are some handy tips for when hiring a drone pilot

Flying drones is tremendously fun for people of all ages. It’s also a great way to start a business. The combination of fun and endless possibilities for videographers, mappers, and enthusiasts, can lead to some inexperienced pilots getting in over their heads. As more inexperienced pilots take on jobs, more accidents happen, leaving both the PILOT and CLIENT legally LIABLE for possible damages.

The  FAA states clearly that they may asses $27,500 in civil fines, and over $250,000 in criminal fines for violations, and possible imprisonment. Pretty serious business! But  after reading this article, you will be armed with knowledge that will minimize your risk significantly, and make hiring a drone pilot simple, safe, and easy.

First things first. The airspace of the United States is governed by the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA. The law states that any pilot operating commercially, or for speculative profit needs to be licensed by the FAA. This license is called the “Part 107”.  The part 107 licensing process ensures that the pilot has passed a knowledge test which encompasses best practices and rules. A background check is also included in the process, showing how serious the FAA takes this license.

The pilot is required to have their Part 107 license on their person when flying, so a professional will be able to display this document, which looks like a drivers license (minus the picture) for you on site. Don’t be afraid to ask for their number.

Second, the pilot is supposed to have his or her flying device registered with the FAA. This ensures that if there is a crash or incident, the owner of the drone can be found. A cursory review of recent drone crashes, shows that nearly all crashed drones in criminal cases, were apparently flying…. without a pilot. Don’t get stuck holding the transmitter. Make sure your pilot has a license and a registration number. They should be able to produce both for you on site.

The final  piece of paperwork you should concern yourself with is extremely important, insurance! This is a bit tricky because not all insurers cover drone operations. So it is important to make sure that the pilots’ is DRONE SPECIFIC INSURANCE for COMMERCIAL OPERATIONS. Liability insurance can vary but it is commonplace to get up to $1 million in coverage. Check to see if your pilot is covered, this can end up saving you big time in the end. If for some reason they don’t have coverage, but you still want to proceed, insist that they use on demand insurance like VERIFLY  to get coverage for your job.

Flight Clearance is also very important. Ask the pilot what airspace they are flying in if you don’t know already, and be aware that flying at night or near airports requires special permission from the FAA. They should be able to show you that they have received the proper authority to do so, if necessary.

For your own purposes you should also ask what type of equipment your pilot is bringing. There are many different types of drones, and many many different types of missions. If you’re looking to get videography for an event, the industry standard is 4k resolution cameras. Ask your pilot about the type of camera his drone is equipped with. Popular industry drones are DJI’s Phantom, Mavic, and Inspire series. The best drone for commercial jobs is the DJI Phantom in my experience. It’s very versatile. Other drones are capable of carrying out different missions, better than the phantom, but none can match it in versatility for your regular run of the mill cinematography or mapping missions. If you are looking for high quality cinematic imagery, look for pilots who own an Inspire 2, ARRI, or something along those lines. The machines tend to be bigger and equipped with better cameras to shoot better films. In our experience, most clients only need 4k resolution. Sites allow for reviews.

Use them!

This will also give you a good idea of whether or not the pilot is capable of doing the type of work, you are going to be paying them for.

And last, LEAVE REVIEWS!

Whether it is for Video, Aerial Mapping, Industrial Inspections or Drone Deliveries, Good Drone Pilots work hard at what they do. If they satisfy your needs, leave a review on one of their sites. The next client will appreciate a recent and relevant review, and it will help distinguish the professionals from the posers; and it will make the industry a better, safer place.

For more info on choosing the right drone pilot check out our friends Kenji’s blog here!


If becoming Part 107 Licensed is something that interests you, contact us!


Thanks for reading!


  • Austin